At least 12 dead after ship burns off Basilan

The Philippine Coast Guard tries to put off the fire on MV Mary Joy 3. Philippine Coast Guard’s Facebook page

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 30 March) — At least 12 people died after a commercial vessel caught fire off Balukbuk Island in Basilan around 11:40 p.m. on Wednesday, the Philippine Coast Guard-Basilan said.

The MV Mary Joy 3, which is owned by Aleson Shipping Lines, was carrying some 200 passengers.

In a phone interview at noon Thursday, Basilan Gov. Jim Hataman-Salliman told MindaNews that the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office has reported 12 casualties so far.

Two of the fatalities were identified as 3-year old Fadzrina Lasal, of Tabuk, Isabela City, and Husin Halul Hamid. Also among the cadavers was that of a boy estimated to be 6 months old.

A 9-year old boy was reportedly separated from his mother.

Personnel from the Naval Forces Western Command and PCG had rescued 121 passengers as of 4 a.m. on Thursday.

Mayor Arsina Ano of Hadji Muhtamad, Basilan said that by 6 a.m., 195 passengers and 35 crew members were accounted for. The figure included the dead and those who were reported missing.

Sister vessel MV Mary Joy 2 brought six unidentified cadavers to Zamboanga City. It also transported 105 rescued passengers to the city for medical treatment.

The company sent another boat to Isabela City in Basilan where 64 rescued passengers were sheltered by the local government at the evacuation center near Bulwagan Hall. Seventeen others were confined at the Basilan General Hospital and Infante Hospital.

Meanwhile, Aleson Shipping Lines has expressed willingness to shoulder the hospitalization expenses of the registered passengers of the ill-fated vessel.

According to the registration manifest of the PCG, the boat had 205 passengers and 35 crew members.

Zamboanga City District 1 Rep. Khymer Adan Olaso said in a phone interview that Aleson Shipping Lines management is “willing to shoulder expenses si entra na hospital y talla [de ila nombre] na passengers list, ayuda kanila el management (if they are hospitalized and [their names] are in the passengers’ list, management will help them).”

The boat crew’s families have nothing to worry about as well where assistance is concerned, Olaso added.

The lawmaker just arrived from Manila and is yet set to meet with the local district of the PCG.

With search and rescue operations still ongoing, the boat temporarily docked at Pilas Island, which is nearest to Hadji Muhtamad town.

Salliman said the provincial government provided assistance to the passengers who were rescued.

Fire Inspector Jason Ahijon of the Bureau of Fire Protection said they are yet to investigate the cause of the fire. (Frencie Carreon/MindaNews)