Death toll from fire incident on Philippine ferry now at 31

Photo: Philippine Coast Guard
Photo: Philippine Coast Guard

Authorities in the Philippines have confirmed that the death toll of a fire incident that occurred on a passenger ferry in the southern part of the country earlier this week has now been raised to 31 following the discovery of additional bodies.

The update was announced in the late afternoon (local time) of Thursday, March 30, less than 24 hours after the passenger ferry Lady Mary Joy 3 suffered a series of onboard explosions and a subsequent blaze while in the waters off Basilan province.

The ferry was en route to Sulu province and was near Basilan's Baluk-Baluk Island when the trouble began at around 22:40 on Wednesday, March 29.

According to some survivors, the explosions occurred at around the same time that the vessel ran aground.

The Philippine Coast Guard and other local partner agencies have so far rescued 189 passengers and 36 crewmembers. Some survivors were later treated for burn injuries and smoke inhalation.

Officials said 18 people were found burned to death in the interior spaces while 13 others, including three children, drowned after they jumped into the water to escape the flames.

A number of passengers and crew are still reported to be missing. However, their exact number remains unknown due to uncertainty as to the actual number of people who were on board the vessel.

In a telephone interview with AP following the incident, Basilan Governor Hadjiman Hataman Salliman said that only 205 passengers were registered in the vessel's manifest when it departed for Sulu on Wednesday.

The coast guard has meanwhile assured that no oil spills have been detected in the area.

An investigation has been launched to identify the events that led to the tragedy.

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