Ferry with more than 500 passengers catches fire off Ormoc
ORMOC CITY—Two crew members were hurt when a passenger vessel caught fire shortly after docking at the pier here early Saturday morning.
Coast Guard identified the two as Jake Rondeł Guiconor and Daryll Lee Bentoy who were hurt as they were trying to contain the fire that engulfed MV Wonderful Stars of Roble Shipping Lines.
All 544 passengers – 17 of them children – safely disembarked the vessel.
The incident happened more than a month after at least 61 persons were killed when a motorbanca sank about 200 meters from the pier in Ormoc on July 2.
MV Wonderful Stars, which came from Cebu, had just docked at the pier at 4:30 a.m. when a crew member sounded the fire alarm, said skipper Rodolfo Saavedra, 50.
He said he immediately went to check the cargo area but was met with thick smoke. He then went back to the pilot house and called up the management.
The instruction relayed was to secure the passengers, said Saavedra.
He immediately instructed his 59 crew members to assist the passengers in disembarking. Six passengers in the VIP accommodation had climbed through window because thick smoke had reached the area and could not be penetrated.
Eight fire trucks from Ormoc and four from the neighboring towns of Baybay, Kananga, Albuera, and Merida responded to help put out the blaze that was worsened by the fuel from the vehicles on board.
As of noon on Saturday, firefighters had yet to put out the fire.
Only four of the 23 vehicles on board were removed. The rest were destroyed in the fire. Most of their cargos were vegetables from Cebu, said Saavedra, adding that the cause of fire remained unknown.
Operations manager Teodoro Franco Omega, said this was the first major incident involving Roble Shipping Lines since it started operating in the 1980s.
He assured that owners of the cargoes destroyed in the fire would be paid as long as these were properly declared.
He added two tug boats would be sent to Ormoc to two the vessel to Cebu where it would be sold as scrap.
MV Wonderful Stars, which was launched in 2007, had a passenger capacity of 820 and a gross tonnage of 1,200. With a report from Joey A. Gabieta
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