GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 28 Aug) – Two persons, including a young girl, were killed in a fire that caught a Dapitan City-bound RoRo (roll on, roll off) ferry before dawn Wednesday, Dapitan City officials said.
Dr. Rolito Cataluña, Dapitan City health officer, identified the fatalities as Danilo Gomez and Chloe Solis Labisig.
He estimated the age of Gomez from 50 to 55 and Labisig from three to four years old.
Cataluña said that a total of 137 persons, including 36 crew of Lite Ferry 16, were rescued.
“We have given them food and water upon their arrival here [in Dapitan],” Cataluña said, noting that several vessels responded to the distress call of the troubled passenger ship.
The survivors were brought to the GV Hotel in nearby Dipolog City for further assistance, he said.
Apple Marie Agolong, Dapitan tourism officer, said the local government unit helped in the rescue efforts and provided food to the survivors.
Agolong said that Lite Shipping also extended immediate help to their passengers brought to the Dapitan City port.
Lite Ferry 16 came from Samboan town in southern Cebu en route to Dapitan City when it caught fire at past 1 a.m. Wednesday.
A dispatch from Coast Guard Southern Cebu said that Lite Ferry 16 caught fire 1:15 a.m. about 1.5 nautical miles away from the Pulauan Port in Dapitan.
Coast Guard said initial investigation showed the fire may have started in the vessel’s engine room.
Allan Barredo, an eyewitness aboard another vessel, FastCat, reported the incident on Facebook, complete with pictures and videos.
He said FastCat, on its way to Dumaguete from Dapitan, stopped to rescue the passengers.
“This morning was pretty surreal: our ferry responded to a distress call of a burning ship about 40 minutes into the trip, rescue mainly done by our ferry crew. At times we were just meters away from the ship and we can see the faces of those still onboard the burning ferry,” Barredo said.
He told MindaNews the FastCat stayed for around four hours for the rescue as there were no Coast Guard personnel in the area.
“We circled around the ferry for four hours, picking up those who jumped and maneuvering near the ferry to be able to use ropes,” he said in a Messenger chat.
Barredo said there was only one rubber boat so it took a long time to get the passengers off Lite Ferry 16.
“We got around 40 or 50 of the passengers, including 2 kids and 1 infant,” he said.
Barredo, who was travelling to Dumaguete with his wife Jean for their anniversary date, said he helped with a strong torch light in hand while Jean helped provide the rescued passengers with clothes.
“There were no blankets so we had to give some of our clothes and jackets and malong,” he said.
Barredo said the Lite Ferry passengers were berating Coast Guard personnel when they were dropped off at the Dapitan port after the rescue. (Bong S. Sarmiento and Bobby Timonera / MindaNews)