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Ship catches fire off Cebu

A ferry carrying 654 passengers and crew caught fire yesterday while sailing off Bantayan Island in Cebu, but no injuries were reported, a spokesman for the ship’s owner said.

The fire broke out at about 11:50 a.m. in the stateroom of SuperFerry 12, said John Rojo, assistant vice president for corporate communications of Aboitiz Transport System Corp., citing initial reports.

Rojo said the ship, which was headed for Cebu City from Manila, was carrying 639 passengers and 145 crewmembers.

He said the fire, which affected six cabins, was declared under control after three hours, at 2:47 p.m.

"The SuperFerry management assures the relatives of the passengers on board SuperFerry 12 that (they) are safe and accounted for, and that no one was injured," he said.

He said the ship’s crew promptly went into "firefighting mode" after the blaze hit the stateroom.

Rojo said SuperFerry will investigate the incident "as it continues to adhere to the highest standards of safety and security at sea."

The ship was anchored in the vicinity of Bulalagui Point, 60 nautical miles from the Cebu port, while the fire was being put under control. It proceeded to Cebu City where it was to arrive at 8 p.m.

The Philippine Navy deployed a rescue vessel, while the Philippine Air Force flew rescue personnel to the ferry by helicopter, said PAF spokesman Lt. Col. Restituto Padilla.

Arnie Santiago, an officer of the Maritime Industry Authority, said the ferry was "cooling off" and could still continue its voyage to Cagayan de Oro City, its final destination farther south. — Nestor Etolle, Edu Punay and AP

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