The MV Markraft 2 departed from Polillo Island in the northeastern part of the archipelago at 5 a.m. It headed for the town of Real, in the province of Quezon, about 60 miles east of Manila. About an hour and a half later the Coast Guard received a disaster call.
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The fire broke out about 1,000 yards from the port and “allegedly started in the engine room,” authorities said in a preliminary statement. Of the 120 people rescued, 23 were injured and three more were in critical condition. The dead included five women and two men.
The fire was declared “under control” at 10 a.m. and passengers and 10 crew members were taken to Real’s Baluti Island.
According to the Coastguard Command Center, the ferry is made of fiberglass. The exact cause of the fire was not immediately clear.
The Philippines is a country of more than 7,000 islands and is no stranger to maritime disasters. A catastrophic accident occurred in December 1987, when a passenger ship MV Donna Paz and an oil tanker, MT Vector, collided, killing more than 4,000 people. The tragedy is covered in a National Geographic documentary, “Asia’s Titanic”, which lists the incident as “the world’s worst peacetime.”