MANILA — At least seven people were killed and more than a hundred were plucked out of the sea on 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 members when it set off from Polillo Island at dawn for the port of Real in Quezon Province when the accident occurred, the Coast Guard said. The fire quickly engulfed the ferry, forcing its passengers to jump into the sea, officials said.
“Seven people died,” Coast Guard spokesman Commodore Armand Balilo confirmed, saying that all the dead were passengers: five male and two female. “Rescue operations are continuing until we account for all the passengers.”
Commodore Balilo said the vessel’s captain was among those rescued. A team of investigators was on the scene to determine what caused the fire. Some 120 people had been rescued as of midmorning Monday.
Accidents involving boats are common in the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,100 islands where travel by sea is the cheapest mode of transportation. In 2017, a vessel from the same company that owned the Mercraft 2 was also involved in a maritime accident off Quezon Province in which four passengers died.
That ship, the Mercraft 3, had been carrying 251 people when it sank off the coast of Infanta, not far from where Monday’s accident occurred.
In 2008, at least 800 people were killed when the Princess of the Stars capsized during 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 considered one of the world’s worst peacetime maritime disasters.