MANILA – At least seven people were killed and more than a hundred were plucked from the sea Monday after a passenger ferry caught fire in the Philippines, the latest maritime tragedy to hit the archipelago.
The Mercraft 2 was carrying 124 passengers and 10 crew as it took off from Polillo Island at dawn to the Port of Real in Quezon Province when the accident occurred, the Coast Guard said. The fire quickly engulfed the ferry, forcing passengers to jump into the sea, officials said.
“Seven people died,” Coast Guard spokesman Commodore Armand Balilo confirmed, saying all the dead were passengers: five men and two women. “The rescue operations will continue until we account for all passengers.”
Commodore Balilo said the ship’s captain was one of the rescued. A team of detectives arrived on the scene to determine the cause of the fire. By mid-morning Monday, about 120 people had been rescued.
Boat accidents are common in the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,100 islands where sea travel is the cheapest mode of transport. In 2017, a vessel belonging to the same company that owned the Mercraft 2 was also involved in a maritime accident off Quezon Province, killing four passengers.
That ship, the Mercraft 3, had 251 people on board when it sank off the coast of Infanta, not far from where Monday’s accident happened.
In 2008, at least 800 people were killed when the Princess of the Stars capsized in a storm in the central Philippines, while a 1987 collision between the ferry Dona Paz and an oil tanker killed more than 4,300 in what is believed to be as one of the world’s greatest worst maritime disasters in peacetime.