Some victims in deadly Basilan ferry fire may have panicked, had no life jackets: PCG


Posted at Mar 31 2023 11:57 AM

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MANILA – Some victims of a deadly ferry blaze in Basilan may have panicked and failed to put on life jackets before jumping overboard, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said on Friday. 

The Lady Mary Joy 3 was travelling from Zamboanga City on Mindanao Island to Jolo Island in Sulu province when the fire ripped through the vessel off Baluk-Baluk Island late Wednesday. 

The blaze left at least 29 people dead. Eleven of them drowned and some were found without life vests on, PCG-Bangsamoro chief Commodore Rejard Marfe told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo. 

"Napakalaki agad ng sunog at yun po siguro dahilan kaya nag-panic yung iba," PCG spokesperson Commodore Armand Balilo said in a separate TeleRadyo interview. 

(The fire spread quickly and perhaps that was why some passengers panicked.)

The rest of the fatalities were found inside the ship and would undergo DNA testing, Marfe said. 
Rescuers saved 216 passengers and crew, while 7 mothers remained missing, he added. 

The official said the ship was not overloaded with passengers at the time it caught fire.

“Yung total capacity niya is 430. Kung titingnan naman natin yung manifesto including the crew, ano na siya, total of 252. At based naman doon sa mga testimony rin ng mga naka-survive, hindi naman sila overcrowded doon sa loob ng barko.”

(The ship's total capacity is 430. There were 252 onboard. And based on the testimony of survivors, they weren't overcrowded on the boat.)

“Itong barko na ‘to is matagal na, 33 years old siya, although hindi naman siya ganoon kabago pero as per information na natanggap naming is well-maintained naman siya.”

(The ship is 33 years old--it's not that new, but we have been told it's been well-maintained.)

The PCG is looking into reports that the fire started in an air-conditioned cabin, Balilo said. 

"Pero ito po ay tinitignan pa natin kung ano ang talagang cause maaari po yung sistema ng barko o kaya may nakaiwan ng mga flammable materials na pwede po yun ang cause ng sunog," he said. 

(We are still looking at the cause. It may have been the gerry's system or someone could have left flammable materials.)

Balilo added that despite the ferry fire and an oil spill in Mindoro, the PCG has enough personnel to monitor an expected rush of travelers on Holy Week. 

"Nakaalerto po ang ating mga K-9 units, mga sea marshals, safety inspectors, at tiyak handa rin po ang ating search and rescue, pero wag naman po sana. Meron din po tayong mga passenger assistance center at nagmomonitor din po tayo sa mga colorum vessels," he said. 

(Our K-9 unities, sea marshals, safety inspectors are on alert, and our search and rescue operations are ready. We also have passenger assistance centers and we are monitoring colorum vehicles.)

— With reports from Ian Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse; Ian Jay Capati