A Kiwi man living in Malaysia watched in horror as a passenger ferry burned out of control.

Gordon Smith, who has lived in Malaysia since 2015 and runs a bed and breakfast and an aerial photography company, photographed the ferry as flames took hold of the vessel this evening (NZ time) off the shore from Langkawi.

"Have just witnessed this ferry burning out in front of Veranda4240, Kuah, Langkawi. Don't know if any body injured or killed, ferries here are all enclosed with limited exit points. This just happened 45 mins ago," he wrote.

A passenger ferry on fire at Langkawi, Malaysia. Photo / Gordon Smith
A passenger ferry on fire at Langkawi, Malaysia. Photo / Gordon Smith

The photos show orange flames licking at the vessel as clouds of thick black smoke billow into the sky.

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Smith said the area was a duty free island and one of the main tourist spots in Malaysia.

He said the vessel had now disappeared and probably sank.

Nst.com reports that the ferry caught fire while travelling between Langkawi and Kuala Perlis about 2.30pm Malaysian time, about 3km from shore.

"Based on initial reports, none of the 52 passengers were injured as they were rescued by nearby boat operators."

A spokesman from the Langkawi Fire and Rescue Department said operations to rescue the passengers and extinguish the fire were underway.

"For now, we are also getting help from others boats and ferries plying similar route.

"Some of the passengers also jumped into sea to save themselves," he said, adding that all forms of assistance had been mobilised to the scene.