7 killed as passenger vessel catches fire off Quezon

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Roro Vessel Mercraft 2 caught fire on May 23. (Photo: M/V Calucin RoRo Captain)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 23) — At least seven individuals were declared dead while 24 were injured after a high-speed vessel caught fire on Monday morning as it was approaching the port of Real in Quezon province, the Philippine Coast Guard said.

The MV Mercraft 2 — with a capacity for 186 people — was carrying 126 passengers and 8 crew members when it left Polilio Island around 5 a.m. for Real.

Coast guard spokesperson Armand Balilo said three are in critical condition, while 21 others are being treated for a number of injuries at the Claro M. Recto Hospital in Real, Quezon as of Monday afternoon. The families of the fatalities have also been notified of the incident, he added.

Balilo said it was not the first accident involving the company that owned the Mercraft since a similar tragedy happened in 2017. He said he expected the victims to claim insurance while discussions with the company on other assistance is still ongoing.

"Our marine casualty investigation (team) is now in the area to find out what really caused the fire," he told CNN Philippines' Traffic Center. "This is our priority."