Passenger ferry catches fire off the coast of New Zealand

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A passenger ferry carrying 60 people caught fire off the coast of New Zealand on Monday, officials say, but all those on board were rescued safely.

The incident began at about 3:45 p.m. local time on Monday when a call came in from a White Island tour boat in the vicinity of the Whakatane Harbour, located on the North Island of New Zealand. Live pictures showed large flames coming from the vessel, and black smoke continued to billow from the ferry at 5 p.m.

An operation got quickly underway to rescue all those on board the vessel, and police confirmed just after 5 p.m. that all 53 passengers and 7 crew members had been evacuated safely and brought to shore. Many passengers had been forced to jump into the sea to escape the flames.

“A Coastguard boat and a number of small local vessels went out to assist in recovering passengers and crew from the water,” New Zealand Police said in an emailed statement. “A helicopter carried out a sweep of the water to confirm everyone had been rescued. The passenger manifest has been checked against those rescued from the water and everyone is accounted for.”

Two people were injured during the incident, including one person who suffered from smoke inhalation and one who suffered a minor injury caused by jumping from the boat, which was called the “Pee Jay 5”.

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