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2 crew hurt, 542 others safe in Ormoc ferry fire

/ 06:15 AM August 16, 2015

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ORMOC CITY, Philippines—Two crewmembers were hurt when a two-story passenger ferry caught fire shortly after docking at the pier here early on Saturday.

All the 544 passengers were safe, except for the two crewmembers, identified as Jake Ronde Guiconor and Daryll Lee Bentoy, who suffered cuts and bruises from trying to contain the fire, the Coast Guard said.

Video footage showed people jumping into the sea and clambering down the roof deck of the MV Wonderful Stars, which was engulfed by smoke as firefighters struggled to put out the blaze hours after the fire broke out.

Coast Guard spokesperson Armand Balilo said it wasn’t immediately clear what caused the fire.

On July 2, at least 61 people died when a ferry capsized moments after departing Ormoc and sank about 200 meters from the pier.

The Wonderful Stars skipper, Rodolfo Saavedra, 50, said the ferry, which had come from Cebu City, had just docked at the Ormoc pier at 4:30 a.m. when a crewmember sounded the alarm.

According to Saavedra, 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 ship’s management.

The instruction relayed was to secure the passengers, said Saavedra.

He immediately instructed his 59 crewmembers to help the passengers disembark. Six passengers in the VIP section had to climb out through a window because the thick smoke prevented the crewmembers from reaching them, he said.

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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 made worse by the fuel from the vehicles on board the ferry.

As of noon Saturday, firefighters had yet to put out the fire.

Most of the ferry’s cargo were vegetables from Cebu, said Saavedra.

Only four of the 23 vehicles on board were safely removed. The rest were destroyed in the fire.

Teodoro Franco Omega, operations manager of the ship’s owner Roble Shipping Lines, said it was the first major incident involving the company since it started operating in the 1980s.

He assured the owners of the cargo that were destroyed in the fire they would be compensated as long as these were properly declared.

He said two tugboats would be sent to Ormoc to tow the vessel to Cebu where it will be sold as scrap.

The MV Wonderful Stars, which was launched in 2007, had a passenger capacity of 820 and gross tonnage of 1,200. With an AP report

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TAGS: Daryll Lee Bentoy, ferry, Ferry fire, Jake Ronde Guiconor, Ormoc, ormoc city
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