REAL, Quezon – Authorities reported that seven died and 23 were injured as a roll-on-roll-off (RORO) passenger vessel Mercraft 2 carrying 135 people caught fire some 1000 yards away from its port of destinations — Real Port, on Monday morning (May 23) in this town.
Philippine Coast Guard commodore Armando Balilo said that based on the initial report gathered from the C.M. Recto District Hospital in Infanta town, the seven fatalities were five females and two males.
They were identified as Viola Empreso, Marivic Samareta, Edna Balanac, Mina Enciso, Charito Escareces, Andy Tejares, and Crisanto Debelles.
According to witnesses, passengers and even crews of the ill-fated vessel had to jump to the water because of fire. Rescuers were still conducting rescue operations as of this writing as nine passengers were reportedly still missing. 120 were rescued.
According to Real Municipal Station chief of police Capt. Christopher Riano, the Mercraft 2 left Polillo Island around 5 a.m. and was bound for Real.
Quezon Police Provincial Office (QPPO) public information officer Police Lt. Lovelynn Lalunio, quoting a report by the PCG, said that around 7 O’clock in the morning the vessel was located in Brgy. Balute, some 1000 yards away from the Real Port when it caught fire.
It was the barangay officials of Barangay Ungos, also in Real town, who reported the incident to the police.
Sketchy report had it that PCG-Real personnel, Real Municipal Risk Reduction Management Office (MDRRMO), emergency rescue team, volunteer rescue workers, and other private vessels readily responded and conducted rescue operations.
Rescuers were able to put the fire under control at around 10 a.m. and probers were still determining the cause of the fire.
The 124 passengers are listed on the manifest, but there were some who were not listed, including the vessel’s crew, according to Balilo. Later, the PCG reported that a total of 135 were on board the vessel, including 126 passengers and nine crews.
The said vessel, which was made of fiberglass, was already towed from Balute Island in Barangay Cawayan in Real.