7 dead, 120 others rescued in Philippine ferry fire

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MANILA, Philippines — A ferry carrying more than 130 people caught fire in the northeastern Philippines on Monday, killing seven people and forcing passengers and crewmembers to jump into the sea where they were rescued by other vessels.

The coast guard said everyone onboard had been accounted for by midday. After the M/V Mercraft 2 caught fire, 24 people sustained injuries and were taken to hospital. The incident occurred as it approached a port in Real town, Quezon province.

Many of the 134 passengers and crew were forced to jump into the water and were plucked from the sea by vessels in the area, coast guard officials said.

The fire apparently started from the engine room, the officials said. The fire was put out and the wreckage was towed back to Real.

Pictures released by the coast guard showed fire engulfing the ferry and dark smoke billowing from it. The coast guard released pictures showing injured survivors being taken on stretchers to ambulance vehicles. A rescuer attempted to revive an unconscious survivor while pressing his chest.

Sea accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago because of frequent storms, badly maintained boats, overcrowding and weak enforcement of safety regulations. In December 1987, the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a fuel tanker, killing more than 4,300 people in the world’s worst peacetime maritime disaster.

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