10 confirmed dead after tour boat with 26 goes missing off Hokkaido

Kyodo News

Posted at Apr 24 2022 03:46 PM | Updated as of Apr 24 2022 04:55 PM

SAPPORO, Japan (UPDATE) - Ten people were confirmed dead Sunday after a tourist boat with a total of 26 passengers and crew aboard went missing the previous day off eastern Hokkaido, the Japan Coast Guard said.

Aircraft and vessels dispatched by the coast guard and the Self-Defense Forces continued with rescue efforts following the 19-ton Kazu I losing contact after reporting it was taking on water around 1:15 p.m. Saturday. The 24 passengers aboard included two children.

The vessel, crewed by a 54-year-old captain and a 27-year-old deckhand, told its operator, Shiretoko Yuransen, it was tilting 30 degrees around 2 p.m. before losing contact, according to the JCG.

Twenty-two adult passengers, two children and two crew were on board when the boat left port around 10 a.m. Saturday, and all were believed to be wearing life jackets.

The incident occurred while the boat was in waters off Kashuni Falls, a popular scenic site near the tip of the peninsula around 27 kilometers northeast of the boat's home port.

Water temperatures in the area have been around 2 C to 4 C in recent days and high waves and strong winds were observed around noon Saturday, according to the local fisheries cooperative. Its fishing boats returned to port before noon because of the bad weather, it said.

Ground, Maritime and Air self-defense forces have all dispatched aircraft to help with the search for the remaining passengers and crew, with the MSDF also sending a destroyer.

According to the JCG's regional station in Abashiri, last June the Kazu I ran aground in shallow water shortly after leaving port. No one was injured in that incident.

The peninsula in the northeast of Hokkaido is known as a popular destination for spotting drift ice and was designated as a World Natural Heritage site in 2005. It is a habitat for many rare species of animals and plants.

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