A ferry carrying more than 200 people caught fire in the southern Philippines late Wednesday night, killing at least 10 passengers, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said Thursday.
Nixon Alonzo, chief of disaster reduction and management office in Basilan province, said the ferry was headed to Zamboanga City from Jolo when it caught fire in the waters off Baluk-Baluk Island in Hadji Muhammad town of Basilan province past 10 pm local time on March 29.
Nixon Alonzo told a local radio that authorities are verifying reports that seven more passengers who jumped into the sea are missing. At least 195 passengers and 35 crew members have been rescued.
"The passengers died from drowning after jumping into the water. Some suffered burns," Alonzo said.
Hadji Muhtamad Mayor Arsina Kahing-Nanoh posted pictures of the vessel on the beach of Baluk-Baluk Island and some of the rescued passengers on social media.
Authorities are looking into the cause of the fire, which reportedly started in an air-conditioned cabin in the vessel. Most of the passengers were asleep when the fire broke out.
The PCG said it deployed personnel and its vessel to help in the search and rescue operation, which continues at the time.