MANILA — The death toll from the March 29 fire that razed a passenger ferry off Basilan province has risen to 32, authorities confirmed Sunday.
This was after personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and maritime police found the body of another passenger floating in the sea off Langgas coast in Basilan's Maluso town.
The victim was identified as Arsi Hassan, who was among the reported missing passengers of the ill-fated MV Lady Mary Joy 3.
Authorities had continued search and retrieval operations during the Holy Week to recover missing victims from the fire.
MV Lady Mary Joy 3 was carrying more than 200 passengers from Zamboanga to Sulu when it caught fire off Basilan in the late hours of March 29.
Faulty electrical wiring was seen as a possible cause of the fire, based on initial investigation from the Coast Guard's Maritime Casualty Investigation Team (MCIT) and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).
A short circuit inside an airconditioned room in the ferry was seen as the possible cause of the fire, the PCG said.
Hours after the fire broke out, eyewitnesses said the fire may have started in one of the vessel's airconditioned cabins.
Aleson Shipping Lines, the owner of the ill-fated vessel, has apologized for the disaster and expressed its condolences to families of the victims.
"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," the company said in a statement dated Apr. 1.
—with report from Queenie Casimiro