M/V Lite Ferry 16 burns while at sea, 1 a.m. on Wednesday en route to Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte from Samboan in southern Cebu. (PNA photo)

A passenger ferry caught fire near a port in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte early morning yesterday killing three passengers, including a one-year-old girl, and injuring two others.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesman Capt. Armand Balilo named the fatalities as Ronaldo Heneral, 65; Danilo Gomez Sr, 60; one-year-and-seven-months-old Chloe Labisig.

Balilo said PCG personnel and volunteers rescued 245 passengers and crew members of the ill-fated MV Lite Ferry 16.  However, the ship’s passenger manifest only showed 136 passengers and 36 crew members, indicating that there are passengers on board that are not listed.

Balilo said the ship is not overloaded noting that it has an authorized passenger capacity of 280 and that the vessel was a “big ship”.

MV Ferry 16 departed the port of Samboan in Cebu around 6 pm Tuesday, en route to Dapitan City. It suddenly caught fire approximately 1.5 nautical mile from Pulauan Port in Dapitan City at around 12:48 am Wednesday.

“Initial information (showed the) fire started at the engine,”Balilo said. Investigators are conducting further investigation on how the fire started.

Balilo said the injured have already been brought to the hospital.  He, however, is still unsure if there are still missing since there are more people not listed in the manifest. “We are not sure. We are investigating the captain (of the ferry) to determine if there [are] still missing,” he said. (Rommel F. Lopez)