Manila: Three people were dead, 63 others are missing and over 100 were rescued in the southern Philippines after a fire tore through a crowded ferry, while an uncertain number remained unaccounted for, authorities said Wednesday.
The blaze broke out in the pre-dawn darkness as the boat sailed to Dapitan City, prompting some of the terrified people onboard to throw themselves into the water, one witness said.
It is not clear how many passengers were on the vessel, but the Philippine Coast Guard said 102 people had been rescued and two confirmed dead - a 60-year-old man, and a one-year-old child.
Search operations were continuing on Wednesday as authorities worked to confirm the actual number of missing.
The boat's official manifest listed 137 onboard, but many more may have been on the vessel.
Local emergency authorities said they had accounted for 215 survivors, nearly double the number provided by the Coast Guard.
"It seems many people were not listed on the manifest," Nelson Quimiguing, a disaster management officer in Dapitan City, told AFP.
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, is plagued by poor sea transport, with its badly regulated boats and ships prone to overcrowding and accidents.
This latest incident occurred 30 years after another Philippine ferry, the Dona Paz, collided with an oil tanker in a pre-Christmas accident that claimed more than 4,000 lives in the world's worst peacetime disaster at sea.