MANILA (UPDATED) - The management of the passenger ferry that caught fire and killed at least 28 people off the coast of Basilan apologized on Friday.
MV Lady Mary Joy 3, carrying some 200 passengers, was on its way to Sulu from Zamboanga when it caught fire off Baluk-Baluk Island in Basilan's Hadji Muhtamad town past 11 p.m. Wednesday.
In a statement, the Aleson Shipping Lines Inc. expressed its condolences to the families of those who died in the tragedy.
"We are deeply saddened and shocked over this tragic incident that has resulted in the loss of precious human lives. There are no words to describe the pain of losing a loved one and our hearts go out to the families, friends and relatives whom they left behind. We cannot apologize enough and we are profoundly sorry for the misery this incident has caused to many of us," it said.
The shipping line said it is cooperating with authorities over the incident.
"As we continue to cooperate with the authorities in investigating the real cause of the fire, we sincerely offer our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved and prayers for the dear departed," it said.
"We have given out financial assistance to those in need and affected in the meantime. We continue to pray for God's comforting love for everyone at this very difficult time," it added.
Initial reports from authorities placed the number of casualties at 31, but they revised it Saturday to 28, based on the number of confirmed bodies found and recovered.
Around 216 people were rescued from the ship, including 35 crewmembers, according to Philippine Coast Guard Zamboanga Station Commander Christopher Domingo.
Survivors were taken to Zamboanga and Basilan, and the injured received treatment for burns, Basilan Governor Jim Hataman-Salliman told ABS-CBN News. - with reports from Queenie Casimiro