(UPDATED) SEVEN people were killed, while three others were in critical condition after a fit engulfed a fastcraft vessel off Real, Quezon Monday morning, May 23, 2022, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said.

The fire rapidly spread from the engine room to the upper passenger deck of the M/V Mercraft 2 while it was approaching a port in Real, said town administrator Filomena Portales.

The vessel was en route to the town in Quezon province from Polillo Island.

Many of the 134 passengers and crew jumped into the water and were plucked from the sea by motorboats and cargo vessels, coast guard officials said.

“Fishing boats and other vessels were able to approach quickly and everybody helped, so the rescue was fast,” Portales said by telephone, adding that many of those rescued were in shock and had to be treated for burns and bruises and given dry clothes and shoes.

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

The coast guard said everyone on the ferry had been accounted for and 24 people who were injured were taken to a hospital.

As of 11 a.m. Monday, May 23, the PCG said 120 passengers were rescued from the burning vessel.

The three persons in critical condition are still being treated in a hospital.

The PCG added that four people remained missing as of Monday.

Portales said seven passengers died from burns and drowning and one possibly had a heart attack while floating in the water.

The fatalities include five females and two male persons.

The PCG said the vessel was traveling from Polillo Island when the fire broke out around 5 a.m. while the vessel was around 1,000 yards from the Port of Real.

The PCG received a distress call at 6:30 a.m.

The fire was declared under control at 9:33 a.m.

The vessel is now at Baluti Island in Barangay Cawayan in Real, Quezon.

Investigators were looking into the fire, and other ferries operated by the owner of Mercraft 2 would likely be suspended from operating while undergoing safety inspections, officials said.

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. (With AP/SunStar Philippines)