Passengers were forced to jump for their lives in the Philippines after a ferry with almost 90 people on board caught fire at the Batangas port, south of Manila, on Friday.
Coastguard officials said on Saturday afternoon that all passengers and crew members of the MV Asia Philippines have now been accounted for, amid reports throughout most of the day that two passengers were still missing.
According to the Philippine Coast Guard [PCG], “after checking, our joint team has confirmed that the two allegedly missing passengers took the 5pm, not the 3pm vessel trip”.
The officials said search and rescue efforts have now concluded, Philstar Global reported.
On its way from nearby Calapan city in Oriental Mindoro province, the ferry went up in flames at around 6pm on Friday evening. There were 49 passengers and 38 crew members on board.
Survivors described trying to escape the fire by jumping into the water. One passenger, Benedict Fernandez, told local radio station DZMM that he decided to jump with his two children when he saw the fire and the smoke on board.
He said: “I pushed my children off because if we didn’t jump from the top, we would really get burned because the soles of our feet were already feeling the heat.”
The Philippine coastguard is now investigating the cause of the fire, PCG spokesperson Armando Ballilo said. Local reports said that among the passengers on board were three students, one minor, two senior citizens and three people with disabilities.
The coastguard officials said a 44-year-old woman who sustained injuries during the fire was taken to hospital for further medical treatment.
Other passengers were taken by another boat that approached the burning ferry and were then taken to a tugboat.
According to the Philippines coastguard, the initial investigation has not revealed any traces of oil spills or an oil sheen within the vicinity of the MV Asia Philippines.
Almost 90 per cent of the third deck of the ship and 80 per cent of the second deck were consumed by fire. Because of the blaze, it was reported that the ship had also tilted towards one side.
The MV Asia Philippines had a capacity of up to around 400 passengers.