All 19 crew members aboard a passenger ferry that caught fire at 11:15 a.m. yesterday at a port in the outlying Kinmen county were rescued after being trapped by the blaze, which was finally extinguished at 4:52 p.m.
Only one crew member was reported suffering from minor smoke inhalation.
The fire occurred on the Xiamen-registered "Tong An" vessel with a seating capacity of 380 and 1,000 tonnage after it had arrived at Shuitou Wharf in Taiwan-controlled Kinmen from Xiamen on China's southeastern coast, and all its 37 passengers had disembarked.
Immediately after learning of the fire news, the fire department under the Kinmen County Government dispatched 15 fire engines and ambulances, as well as over 70 firefighters to the Shuitou Wharf. In addition, the coast patrol squad of Kinmen also sent two patrol vessels to join the rescue, while Kinmen county magistrate Lee Chu-feng also arrived at the site to show his concern over the incident.
As the fire occurred on the sea, the fire fighters could hardly do anything to put out the fire.
On another front, Xiamen harbor authorities also sent four ships to rescue those crew members trapped by the fire. The scene showed that ships flying ROC flags and those with PRC flags were joining forces in the rescue operation. It was the first time a passenger ship sailing the Mini Three Links route between China and Kinmen had caught fire since the links were opened in 2001.
Preliminary reports speculated that the fire was sparked by a faulty electric wire.
Kinmen county police department, fire engine department and Kaohsiung Harbor Administration have all kicked off their investigations to determine the real reason behind the fire incident.