Passengers of ill-fated vessel off Bohol reeling from fire

Annie Perez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 27 2022 03:36 PM

Vessel on fire in waters between Bohol and Leyte. Courtesy Shane Besin
Vessel on fire in waters between Bohol and Leyte. Courtesy Shane Besin

MANILA — Some passengers of the ill-fated motorbanca that caught fire off Bohol on Sunday are still reeling from the ordeal they went through.

Mark Vincent Sagasa, who was among the 163 people aboard the vessel Mama Mary Chloe, recalled how he sensed smoke coming from the floor that became thicker by the minute.

“Sa ilalim iyong makina umusok na siya. Nagulat lang ako kasi nagsigawan na ang lahat at kanya-kanya na ang pagkuha ng life jacket,” he said. 

(I saw smoke coming from the engine underneath. I was shocked when I heard people screaming and scrambling for life jackets.)

When people in life jackets started jumping overboard while those on the vessel struggled to breathe, Sigesa said they were told to relax as the crew were fixing the problem.

“Sabi nila hindi daw mag-panic at huwag kaming lumabas kasi iyong hose lang daw ang may leak pero hindi pwedeng hindi kami lalabas dahil maitim na ang usok at masa-suffocate na kami,” he added.

(They told us not to panic and not to get off the vessel. They said the hose had a leak and we were told not to jump overboard because the smoke was black and we were already suffocating.)

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Central Visayas later disclosed that the fire, which broke out between Tugas and Tilmobo islands in Bohol, came from the engine room.

“It was because of the exhaust fan pero iiniimbestigahan pa rin ito (it's still being investigated). We will also talk to the passengers,” PCG Central Visayas commanding officer Krystal Bergantin said.

One person was confirmed killed in the fire. 

Another passenger who was reported missing had been found. He immediately left after the rescue boat that plucked him from sea reached port, prompting authorities to search for him, said the PCG. 

The Philippines is plagued by poor sea transport, with its badly regulated boats prone to overcrowding and accidents.

In May, 7 people were killed when a fire ripped through a ferry carrying 134 passengers and crew off Luzon.

—With a report from Agence France-Presse

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