At least seven dead after blaze on Philippine passenger ferry

Five women and two men died, 120 passengers rescued, 23 of them treated for injuries, the coast guard said.

Seven people have died after a high-speed ferry carrying 134 people in the Philippines caught fire, with seven passengers still missing, the coast guard said.

The ship caught fire on Monday just before reaching the port of Real in Quezon province, about 60km (37.28 miles) east of the capital Manila. It had left Polilio Island at 5am local time (21:00 GMT Sunday) and made a distress call at 6:30am.

Five women and two men had died, while 120 passengers had been rescued, with 23 of them treated for injuries, the coast guard said in a statement.

Pictures shared by the coast guard showed people in life vests floating at sea awaiting rescue, while some were taken to safety by a cargo ship in the area. Fire and thick smoke engulfed the two-storey passenger vessel.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear, but the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, has a poor record for maritime safety, with vessels often overcrowded and many vessels ageing.

In 1987, some 5,000 people died in the world’s worst peacetime shipping disaster, when an overloaded passenger ferry Dona Paz collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro island south of the capital, Manila.

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