Calls for reform are mounting in the Philippines after this week’s tragedy when another inter-island ferry caught fire, causing casualties and devastation. The main agencies that oversee the shipping sector have responded with a series of steps, while the country’s Senate is also calling for action and planning an investigation.
The Bureau of Fire Protection declared the fire aboard the passenger cargo ferry Lady Mary Joy 3 officially as of 7:30 am on March 30, 10 hours after initial reports of a fire in the ship’s passenger areas. Survivors continue to tell authorities that the fire started in the passenger areas and chaos reigned on board the ship. Many people jumped into the water to escape. The ship came to a stop on the shore.
The Lady Mary Joy 3 left Zamboanga City on March 29 for an overnight trip to Jolo, Sulu in the southern Philippines. Reports of the fire began around 10:30 p.m. when the ship was near Baluk-Baluk Island, where it came to rest.
As of this morning, the Coast Guard, along with several authorities, are continuing the search and recovery operation. Several teams and ships continue to search the area for missing persons. Initially they said parts of the ship were too hot to reach and crews had to be withdrawn at one point because of the dangers. Images released by the Coast Guard show scenes of total devastation, demonstrating the intensity of the fire.
The Coast Guard revised its report and now said 29 people are known to have died in the fire, compared to a report of 31, but that seven people are missing. Eleven of the victims drowned and have been identified. The 18 bodies recovered from the ship are badly burned and awaiting DNA testing for positive identification. According to media reports, several children were among the dead, including a toddler.
The number of survivors was put at 216, with the Coast Guard assuming there were a total of 252 people on board. Among them were 205 passengers and 35 crew members. Also on the ship were eight Army personnel and four Coast Guard personnel. According to previous reports, the manifest for the ship was incomplete and inaccurate.
“The MV Lady Mary Joy 3 The tragedy brings back memories of neglect and problems (with) corruption in enforcing maritime safety and where passenger ships (or) ships serve effectively as floating coffins because of their lack of safety,” Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said in a prepared statement . The Senate is calling for an investigation by both the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and the Philippine Coast Guard. You would like to know what steps are being taken by the authorities to enforce the regulations related to seaworthiness, safety requirements and manning of all vessels operating in the Philippines.
For her part, MARINA issued several directives in the hours following the tragedy. They have ordered a full investigation of all Aleson Shipping Lines vessels. According to media reports, the shipping company has not made any public statements. On its website, the company describes itself as the dominant shipping company in Western Mindanao with a fleet of 25 vessels.
Regulators ordered Aleson to take care of all the victims and their families. They were instructed to pay for the medical care of the survivors and to provide financial and other assistance to the survivors and the families of the deceased.
MARINA has also ordered the monitoring of compliance with safety regulations and the necessary steps to prevent similar incidents. They also posted a reminder for engine room crews, crews working in other parts of ships and passengers on the steps to protect themselves from fires.
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