FORTY-THREE passengers of a roll-on/roll-off ferry that caught fire on the Verde Island Passage off Batangas yesterday morning were safely transferred to another ship and all 75 crewmen have been accounted for, the Philippine Coast Guard said.
The MV Cebu Ferry 1 caught fire at 9 a.m. yesterday about 2 nautical miles off Matoco Point, between the islands of Maricaban and Verde, the PCG said in a report.
The vessel, skippered by Capt. Joel Cornelio, had departed Batangas pier around 8 a.m. for Caticlan, Aklan.
The fire was put out around noon. The ferry’s 43 passengers, including one child, were safely transferred to the MV Supercat-38, which happened to be in the area at the time.
No one among the passengers or the crew was hurt. Radio reports said many passengers panicked during the fire and demanded to be evacuated via the lifeboats.
The Coast Guard said it deployed its Tug Boat 271 and PCG small craft DF 310 for the rescue operation; the agency’s Islander 251 plane was also deployed for an aerial search and provide necessary assistance. Vessels from three private shipping firms also helped in the rescue, the Coast Guard said.
PCG officer-in-charge Commo——–dore Lino Dabi said the Cebu Ferry 1 was sent back to Batangas port to check the extent of damage and the seaworthiness prior to allowing the vessel to resume operations.
The ship, with its crew on board, was towed by a tug boat from the Malayan Towage and escorted by Tug Boat 271. It arrived in Batangas around 3 p.m.
The cause of the fire has yet to be ascertained.
The Cebu Ferry, with a 2,778 gross tonnage, is owned and operated by ATS Corp. /INQUIRER