Authorities are still looking for 19 people missing from the fire that razed a passenger vessel off Basilan as the death toll remained at 32, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) said on Monday.
At a televised public briefing, OCD spokesperson Undersecretary Raffy Alejandro said they are now conducting retrieval and recovery operations for the remaining victims.
“So far, 32 na po ang reported na officially dead doon pero meron pa pong 19 missing na hopefully ma-recover natin doon sa area kung saan nangyari itong insidente,” he said.
(So far, 32 have been officially reported dead but there are still 19 people missing whom we hope to recover in the area of the incident.)
Of the 32 deaths, 16 recovered cadavers have yet to be identified because they were burned, Alejandro said.
Hadji Muhtamad, Basilan Mayor Arsina Kahing-Nanoh said authorities are encountering difficulties in search, rescue, and retrieval operations due to an inaccurate manifest.
MV Lady Mary Joy 3 was en route to Jolo, Sulu from Zamboanga City on March 29 when the blaze hit the maritime vessel at around 10:40 p.m. It was declared fire out at 7:30 a.m. on March 30.
To save the passengers, the PCG official confirmed the captain brought the vessel to Baluk-Maluk Island in Hadji Muhtamad town.
The Philippine Coast Guard said a total of 230 survivors were reported in the incident including the crew aboard the vessel. —KG, GMA Integrated News