LANGKAWI: More than 50 passengers of a Kuala Perlis-bound ferry were rescued when the vessel caught fire minutes after it departed from the Kuah terminal here.
The blaze on the Dragon Star ferry, which was carrying 52 passengers and six crew members, occurred 3km off Kuah.
All passengers escaped unhurt in the incident. They were rescued by other vessels.
The Kedah Fire and Rescue Department operation centre was alerted to the ferry fire at 2.48pm.
A rescue team was despatched to the scene at 2.56pm.
An operation codenamed Ops Helang, which was headed by Deputy Fire Superintendent Johari Mohd Lazim, was launched.
It involved personnel from the Persiaran Putra and Langkawi Fire and Rescue stations.
The Fire and Rescue Department disclosed in a statement that a passenger first spotted the blaze and raised the alarm.
The passengers jumped into the sea to escape as the blaze grew.
Aided by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and nearby vessels, two rescue boats and a Kevlar boat were sent to the scene to contain the fire.
Firemen boarded the ferry to put out the fire and to ensure no passengers were trapped.
Kedah and Perlis Maritime Headquarters deputy operation director Captain Maritime Zulinda Ramly said the Langkawi Maritime Operations Centre received an emergency call at 3pm.
“MRSC (Maritime Rescue Sub Centre) Langkawi coordinated the movement of three boats and two jet skis owned by the Malaysian Maritime, and three boats from TLDM (Royal Malaysian Navy), Marine Police Force and Marine Department of Malaysia.
“All the victims were rescued by the Pulau Tuba and Bagan Selat passenger boat, which was near the location of the incident.
“All the victims have been sent to Kuah. The fire has been extinguished but the cause of the incident is still unknown,” she said in a statement.