At least 28 people have died in a catastrophic blaze on a Philippines ferry.

The country’s coast guard said on Thursday that a six-month-old child was among the dead from the 835-gt Lady Mary Joy 3 (built 1990).

The fire broke out when the inter-island ship was off the island of Basilan in the south of the country.

No cause has yet been identified for the blaze, which started late on Wednesday night as many passengers slept in cabins on the lower deck.

“Initially there were 10 we recovered, they died of drowning. And then we discovered another 18 on board the vessel, at the cabin. They were totally burnt,” Commodore Rejard Marfe, coast guard chief in the southern Mindanao region, told Reuters.

Reports differed as to how many people were on the ship.

However, the vessel was said not to have been overloaded.

The coast guard said 230 people, including 35 crew, were rescued.

Marfe added that there was “chaos” on board.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control early on Thursday.

Photos shared by the coastguard showed the Lady Mary Joy 3 gutted by the fire.

Jumped into the sea

“I thought I was dreaming but when I opened my eyes, it was dark and we were surrounded by smoke,” 46-year-old survivor Mina Nani told DZRH.

She said she survived by jumping off the vessel and shared a float with another passenger before they were rescued.

The Philippines-flagged ferry is operated by Aleson Shipping Lines of Zamboanga City.

The last listed port-state-control inspection in 2017 showed no deficiencies.

The country has suffered many such casualties, often involving overcrowded older vessels.

In May 2022, at least seven people died after a fire on a high-speed ferry carrying 134 people.

In 1987, around 5,000 people lost their lives in the world’s worst peacetime shipping disaster.

The overloaded passenger ferry Dona Paz collided with a tanker off Mindoro island, south of the capital, Manila.