Death toll from vessel fire off Basilan now 26
UPDATED ZAMBOANGA CITY —The death toll in the fire that hit a Sulu-bound vessel on Wednesday night had reached 26.
Basilan Gov. Jim Hataman-Salliman said the count of fatalities increased after rescuers from the Philippine Coast Guard recovered 13 charred bodies inside the ill-fated M/V Lady Mary Joy 3 of Aleson Shipping Lines.
Of the 13, three were children, Salliman noted.
Four bodies were first recovered from the sea, then another nine, and the latest was 13, from inside the boat, Salliman explained.
The vessel caught fire around 11 p.m. as it was passing near Baluk-Baluk island of Hadji Muhtamad town of Basilan province, two hours after departing from the port of Zamboanga City, the Coast Guard said.
The boat’s manifest said it was carrying 205 passengers.
The cause of the fire was still unknown, said Salliman.
Salliman added that 67 more were rescued at dawn, bringing to 297 the number of survivors so far. Some 195 were rescued from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., he added. Out of the 297, 35 were crew members.
“We were breaking our fast when our people in Baluk-Baluk called up informing us there was a boat on fire. We immediately responded and proceeded to the area,” Nanoh told the Inquirer by phone.
She said among the rescued passengers were soldiers who were on their way to report for duty in Sulu.
According to the Philippine Coast Guard, the boat, left the Zamboanga port at 9 p.m. on Wednesday with 205 passengers indicated in its manifest.
Nanoh immediately noted the disparity in the manifest and the number of people they rescued.
“Apart from trying to account for the number of people, we also worry about oil spill (as) the affected area is a major fishing ground of the town. We were assured last night by the Philippine Coast Guard that they will do their best to clean our waters,” Nanoh added.
The vessel has since been pulled ashore, according to Hadji Muhtamad Municipal Mayor Arsina Kahing-Nanoh in a Facebook post.
Apart from Hadji Muhtamad, disaster responders from Isabela City, Basilan provincial government, the coast guard, the Navy, police, and residents helped out to search and rescue survivors.
“The Provincial Government of Basilan under the leadership of Governor Jim Salliman hereby expresses its deepest sympathies to the passengers of the ill-fated M/V MaryJoy 3 which caught fire at sea off Baluk-Baluk Island Basilan, while navigating from Zamboanga City to Jolo, Sulu shortly before midnight Wednesday, March 29,” said the Provincial Government of Basilan in a Facebook post.
UPDATE of M/V Lady Mary Joy 3📍 Barangay Baluk-Baluk, Hadji Muhtamad Municipality, Province of Basilan
This is a developing story.