The M/V Lite Ferry 16 being docked at a port in Dipolog in Zamboanga del Norte province in southern Philippines.
At least three people were killed and 245 others were rescued after a fire engulfed a ferry in the southern Philippines overnight, the coast guard said Wednesday.
Search and rescue efforts were continuing after the fire on the M/V Lite Ferry 16 off Dapitan city in Zamboanga del Norte province, coast guard spokesman Armand Balilo said.
"We did not have any patrol ship in the area so we alerted nearby ships and boats to render assistance because it was an emergency," Balilo said by phone. "It's good that a number of ships immediately responded. We have to recognize what they did."
It was not immediately clear how many people were actually on board, a common dilemma when such sea accidents happen. The coast guard said a manifest showed the 645-ton ferry was carrying 136 passengers, including 28 children, and 36 crew members.
But it was unclear why 245 were rescued, much more than the combined number of passengers and crew, Balilo said, adding that investigators would ask the owner and ferry skipper to explain the discrepancy.
A 1-year-old girl and a 60-year-old male passenger died while at least 102 others were rescued by passing ships and boats, Balilo said. He said a third person died, but did not have any details.
It was unclear whether there were still people missing but no relatives have approached authorities to report any, and an ongoing search will continue, Balilo said.
Photos showed passengers wearing orange life vests waiting to be rescued at the loading bay of the ferry, which also carried some vehicles. Orange flames and smoke would later engulf almost the entire ferry in the darkness but the ship stayed afloat, about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) off a port in Dapitan city, where it was destined.
Some passengers were quoted in local news reports as saying they jumped off the ship into the choppy waters in panic when the fire broke out and were later rescued by passing cargo and fishing vessels.
Passenger Benedict Fernandez told DZMM radio Friday night that smoke and flames suddenly rose from the second deck as crew members were apparently trying to turn an engine on and off as the ferry approached the port.
The ship caught fire just before reaching the port of Real in Quezon province, about 60km (37.28 miles) east of the capital Manila. It had left Polilio Island at 5am local time (2100 GMT Sunday) and made a distress call at 6:30am.
Rescuers have deployed a helicopter and extended the search area to 20 nautical miles from where the boat sank in the search for the missing, Djunaidi said.
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