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At least 7 dead, 120 others rescued in Philippine ferry fire

A ferry carrying more than 130 people caught fire Monday while approaching a northeastern Philippine province, killing at least seven people while most passengers and crewmembers were rescued, the coast guard said.

At least seven people remained missing and 23 others were injured and brought to a hospital, including the skipper, after fire engulfed the M/V Mercraft 2 while it was approaching a seaport in Real town in Quezon province from Polillo island.

Many of the 134 passengers and crew were forced to jump into the water and others were rescued by vessels in the area, coast guard officials said, adding a helicopter was on standby to help in an ongoing search for the missing.

The fire apparently started from the engine room, the officials said. The fire has been put under control and the wreckage towed to shore in Real.

Pictures released by the coast guard showed fire engulfing the ferry and dark smoke billowing from it. Injured survivors on stretchers were taken to waiting ambulance vans while a rescuer tried to revive an unconscious survivor by pressing on his chest.

Sea accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago because of frequent storms, badly maintained boats, overcrowding and weak enforcement of safety regulations. In December 1987, the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a fuel tanker, killing more than 4,300 people in the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster.

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