PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines—The Philippine Coast Guard and Naval Forces West (NavforWest) have dispatched patrol and rescue vessels to a distressed luxury cruise ship, identified as MV Asamara Quest, which reported having caught fire outside Tubbataha Reef national marine park off in the Sulu Sea between Palawan and Tawi-Tawi islands.
Five passengers have been injured in the fire, according to Navforwest Commander Cmdr. Joseph Rostum Peña.
The vessel, which naval officials described as a 30,000-gross-ton, 181-meter-long cruise ship, was reported to have on board 600 passengers, mostly Americans and Europeans, and a crew of 121 Filipinos, and was passing through from Manila enroute to Indonesia.
“Our information is that the fire is under control but the ship needs to evacuate five injured passengers,” Peña said.
Several vessels from the Philippine Coast Guard and the Navy have been scrambled to assist the MV Asamara, including PS31 from Zamboanga City, PG118 from Tawi-Tawi, Mpac from Jolo, PG392 from Palawan and two BFAR vessels from Zamboanga.
An Air Force plane from the 570th Composite Air Wing was also scrambled to track the vessel, which had reported its location at 45 nautical miles northeast of Mapun Island, part of Tawi-Tawi province.
Peña said they have also alerted the YL Fishing Company which had a fishing vessel plotted to be near the distressed ship to help in the search and rescue.