GENERAL Santos City – A man and a young girl were killed in a fire that caught a Dapitan-bound ferry before dawn Wednesday.
Dr. Rolito Cataluña, Dapitan city health officer, identified the fatalities as Danilo Gomez and Chloe Solis Labisig.
He said Gomez was about 50 to 55 while Labisig was three to four years old.
Cataluña said 137 people, including 36 crew of Lite Ferry 16, were rescued.
The survivors were brought to the GV Hotel in nearby Dipolog City for further assistance, he said.
Apple Marie Agolong, Dapitan tourism officer, said the local government helped in the rescue efforts and provided food to the survivors.
Agolong said Lite Shipping also extended immediate help to their passengers brought to the Dapitan City port.
Lite Ferry 16 came from Samboan town in southern Cebu en route to Dapitan City when it caught fire at past 1 am Wednesday.
A dispatch from Coast Guard Southern Cebu said that Lite Ferry 16 caught fire 1:15 am about 1.5 nautical miles from the Pulauan Port in Dapitan.
The Coast Guard said initial investigation showed the fire may have started in the vessel’s engine room.
Allan Barredo, a witness aboard another vessel, Fast Cat, reported the incident on Facebook, complete with pictures and videos.
He said Fast Cat, on its way to Dumaguete from Dapitan, stopped to rescue the passengers.
He said the Fast Cat stayed for around four hours for the rescue as there were no Coast Guard personnel in the area.
“We circled around the ferry for four hours, picking up those who jumped and maneuvering near the ferry to be able to use ropes,” he said in a Messenger chat.
Barredo said there was only one rubber boat so it took a long time to get the passengers off Lite Ferry 16.
“We got around 40 or 50 of the passengers, including 2 kids and 1 infant,” he said.
“There were no blankets so we had to give some of our clothes and jackets and malong,” he said.
Barredo said the Lite Ferry passengers were berating Coast Guard personnel when they were dropped off at the Dapitan port after the rescue. (Bong S. Sarmiento and Bobby Timonera of Mindanews)