Philippine ferry fire: At least seven dead and 120 rescued after blaze

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At least seven people have died after a high-speed Philippine ferry carrying 134 people caught fire.

It happened just before the boat reached the port of Real in Quezon province, about 37 miles (60km) east of the capital Manila.

It had left Polillo Island at 5am local time and made a distress call at 6.30am.

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.

Five women and two men died, a statement said.

Authorities said at least seven people remained missing.

A further 23 were injured and taken to a hospital, including the skipper, after a blaze started in the engine room of the M/V Mercraft 2.

Images released by the coast guard showed the vessel engulfed in flames, before it was brought under control and the wreckage towed to shore.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear but the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, has a poor record for maritime safety.

Vessels are often overcrowded, badly maintained and there is weak enforcement of safety regulations.

In December 1987, more than 4,300 people died in the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster after the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a fuel tanker.

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