People throw buckets of water onto a smouldering ferry which had caught fire near Real town, Quezon province. AFP
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.
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Five women and two men had died, while 120 passengers had been rescued, with 23 of them treated for injuries, the coast guard said in a statement.
Passengers are checked after being rescued at the port of Real, Quezon province, Philippines, on Monday. AP
Pictures shared by the coast guard showed people in life vests floating at sea awaiting rescue, while some were taken to safety by a cargo ship in the area. Fire and thick smoke engulfed the two-storey passenger vessel.
It was not immediately clear the cause of the fire, but the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, has a poor record for maritime safety, with vessels often overcrowded and many vessels ageing.
In 1987, around 5,000 people died in the world's worst peacetime shipping disaster, when an overloaded passenger ferry Dona Paz collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro island south of the capital, Manila.
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.
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.
The boat, which was transporting dozens of passengers as well as goods, caught fire overnight Monday in Tshimbinda, a village near Tshikapa, the capital of the central province of Kasai.
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