Three people, including the chief mate, were killed Saturday in a fire that broke out on the passenger ferry M/V ISLAND FASTCRAFT 1, just miles from its destination in Cebu City, Philippines.
The fire reportedly erupted around lunch time when the vessel, travelling from the city of Tubigon in rough weather, was just 4.5 miles Southeast of Cebu City with 75 passenger on board. According to reports, the vessel sank just two hours after the fire broke out. The Philippine Coast Guard together with the commercial vessel M/V SEAJET and a number of good samaritans assisted in the rescue of the surviving passengers.
Sunday, Philippines Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas ordered all vessels operated by the ferry’s owner, Island Express Shipping, be grounded as authorities inspect the seaworthiness of the company’s fleet. Island Express Shipping has a total of eight vessels, including one fastcraft and five RoRo vessels.
“At this point, public safety is our primordial concern. I will not allow shipping companies to take chances with the lives of the passengers. DOTC will ensure that whenever a passenger steps on a ship, he can be certain that ship will have passed all the stringent requirements for safety,” Roxas said.
The DOTC also instructed the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Board of Marine Inquiry to conduct a thorough investigation in order determine whether the shipping company or its crew are at fault. Initial reports said that allegedly, electrical wirings from the engine room may have caused the fire.
The victims included two passengers and the Chief Mate, Abelardo C. Torrevillas Sr.