Fire on Passenger Ferry Kills 28 in Philippines

Fire on Passenger Ferry Kills 28 in Philippines

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - At least 28 people have died, including a 6-month old baby, after a fire broke out on an inter-island passenger ferry in the southern Philippines, the coast guard said on Thursday.

Authorities have yet to identify the cause of the fire that started close to 11 pm (1500 GMT) on Wednesday off the island of Basilan, when many of the passengers were asleep in air-conditioned cabins on the ferry's lower deck.

"Initially there were 10 we recovered, they died of drowning. And then we discovered another 18 on board the vessel, at the cabin. They were totally burnt," Commodore Rejard Marfe, coast guard chief in the southern Mindanao region, told Reuters.

There were conflicting figures on the number of passengers on the ferry, which was not overloaded, but the coast guard said 230 people including 35 crew were rescued.

Marfe earlier said most were sleeping at that time of the fire, adding "there was chaos".

Firefighters brought the blaze under control early on Thursday.

The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, has a poor record for maritime safety, with vessels often overcrowded and many aging ships still in use.

In May, at least seven people died after a fire in a high-speed Philippine ferry carrying 134 people.

In 1987, around 5,000 people died in the world's worst peacetime shipping disaster, when an overloaded passenger ferry Dona Paz collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro Island south of the capital, Manila.

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