Philippine ferry catches fire at sea, all 120 people aboard rescued

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A Philippine ferry carrying 120 passengers and crew members caught fire at sea on Sunday and a coast guard vessel was deployed to rescue those onboard and try to extinguish the flames, coast guard officials said.

The M/V Esperanza Star caught fire at dawn while traveling from Siquijor province to Bohol province in the central Philippines, the coast guard said. It did not immediately say how many people have been rescued from the ferry or if there were casualties.

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.

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.

Sea accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago 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, the coast guard said.

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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