At least seven dead after blaze on Philippine passenger ferry

Manila, May 23 (BNA) Seven people were killed after a Philippine high-speed ferry carrying 134 people caught fire, and seven passengers are still missing, according to the Coast Guard.

The ship caught fire before it reached Real Port in Quezon Province, about 60 km east of the capital, Manila. She had left Polleo Island at 5:00 a.m. local time (2100 GMT Sunday) and made a distress call at 6:30 a.m.

The Coast Guard said in a statement that five women and two men died while 120 passengers were rescued, 23 of whom were injured.

Pictures released by the Coast Guard showed people in life jackets swimming in the sea waiting to be rescued, while some were taken to safety by a cargo ship in the area. Fire and thick smoke engulfed the two-deck passenger ship.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear, but the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, has a poor record on maritime safety, with ships often overcrowded and many ships worn out.

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

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