At least 31 people — including a 6-month-old infant — died in fire that broke out on a passenger ship off Basilan province in the southern Philippines, authorities said today, after more bodies were found in the charred interior of the ferry.

“Initially we recorded 13 deaths, then another 18, a total of 31 deaths at this time,” said provincial governor Jim Suliman.

Some of the dead were drowned, while others were charred, said Rehard Marfe, head of the Mindanao Provincial Coast Guard.

The cause of the fire, which broke out at approximately 11:00 PM last Wednesday night (6:00 PM Greek time), while many passengers were sleeping in the air-conditioned cabins on the lower deck of the ferry, is currently unknown.

The total number of passengers, which were overcrowded, is not known, but the coastguard said 230 people were rescued, including 35 crew members.

Firefighters brought the fire under control early this morning.

Photographs released by the Philippine Coast Guard show the ferry, MV Lady Mary Joy 3, completely destroyed by the fire.

“I thought I was dreaming, but when I opened my eyes, it was dark and everything was full of smoke,” Mina Nani, 46, told radio station DZRH.

She escaped by jumping overboard and sharing a life jacket with another passenger.

The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands and islets, has a poor record for maritime safety, with ships often carrying too many passengers and many shipping lines using aging vessels. Marine accidents are frequent in the country.

In May 2022, at least seven people died when a fire broke out on a passenger ship with 134 people on board.

In 1987 some 5,000 people were killed in the worst peacetime maritime tragedy ever recorded, when the overcrowded ferry Dona Paz collided with an oil tanker off the island of Mindoro, south of the capital Manila.