All 120 people on board rescued after Philippine ferry catches fire at sea

The coast guard personnel assist in putting out the fire on Philippine ferry M/V Esperanza Star at the waters off Panglao, Bohol province, central Philippines
Smoke and flames are seen from the Philippine ferry M/V Esperanza Star. Credit: AP

All 120 passengers and crew members aboard a Philippine ferry that caught fire at sea on Sunday were rescued safely.

The fire raged for more than five hours, but the coast guard managed to extinguish the blaze after deploying two vessels for the rescue operation.

The M/V Esperanza Star caught fire at dawn while traveling from Siquijor province to Bohol province in the central Philippines.

Dramatic photos and video released by the coast guard show flames and black smoke billowing from two decks at one end of the ferry, as coast guard personnel onboard another vessel used a water cannon to try to put out the fire.

A fishing boat and one other vessel could be seen nearby.

A man pushes a boat beside a burning Philippine ferry M/V Esperanza Star after it caught fire. Credit: AP

None of the 65 passengers and 55 crew members could be seen aboard the burning ferry based on the photographs and video released by the coast guard.

“All those who were onboard the ferry are safe,” Joy Gumatay, coast guard spokeswoman, said in a statement but gave no further details. She added that the survivors were brought to the port city of Tagbilaran in Bohol province and an investigation was underway.

Sea accidents are common in the Philippine islands because of frequent storms, badly maintained vessels, overcrowding and spotty enforcement of safety regulations, especially in remote provinces.

In March, a fire broke out and raged overnight on a ferry carrying about 250 people and killed at least 31 passengers and crew members off the southern island province of Basilan.

In December 1987, the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a fuel tanker, killing more than 4,300 people in the world’s worst peacetime maritime disaster.

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