A ferry carrying about 250 passengers and crew caught fire in the southern Philippines on Wednesday night, killing at least 31 people and leaving at least seven others missing, authorities said.
The MV Lady Mary Joy 3 was sailing from Zamboanga to Jolo when it went up in flames off the coast of Baluk-Baluk Island in Basilan province, about 580 miles south of Manila.
The Philippine Coast Guard said it received a report of the fire at around 10:40 p.m. and dispatched rescue vessels and helicopters to the scene.
Many passengers jumped overboard into the dark waters to escape the blaze, while some were rescued by local residents who saw the burning ship approaching their island.
The coast guard said it rescued 201 people as of Thursday afternoon, while 28 bodies were recovered from the sea and three more were found inside the ship after the fire was put out.
The search and rescue operation is expected to continue through Friday, as authorities believe more people were aboard the ferry than those listed in the manifest.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
The Philippines has a history of maritime accidents due to poor safety standards, lack of maintenance, overcrowding and bad weather.
In December 1987, more than 4,300 people died when a passenger ferry collided with an oil tanker and sank in one of the world’s worst maritime disasters.