Fire Kills at Least 28 on a Passenger Ferry in the Philippines

A passenger ferry caught fire overnight in the southern Philippines, killing at least 28 people, officials said on Thursday.

The ship was at sea near the southern island province of Basilan when the fire broke out on Wednesday evening, the Philippine Coast Guard said. The cause of the fire was not immediately clear, and the coast guard said an investigation was underway.

Officials initially said at least 10 people had died and 230 others had been rescued. By Thursday afternoon, they had found 18 more bodies on the ferry.

It was unclear if any more people were missing, in part because officials have yet to determine how many people were aboard the ferry. The ship, Lady Mary Joy 3, was approved to carry 240 passengers and crew, but it appeared there were others on the vessel who were not in the manifest, a coast guard official, Rejard Marfe, said.

Such discrepancies are not unusual in the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,100 islands where vessels often carry more people than they list on their official passenger manifests.

Travel by sea is the cheapest mode of transportation in the Philippines, and maritime accidents happen somewhat regularly. Last year, seven people died after a passenger ferry carrying 124 passengers caught fire soon after setting off from Polillo Island, east of the Philippine capital, Manila. More than a hundred other people were rescued.

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