TOKYO – At least 10 people on a sightseeing boat that sank off the Japanese island of Hokkaido on Saturday have been killed, the Japan coast guard said on Sunday. Another 16 people are still missing.
The ship had 24 passengers on board when two of its crew members sent a distress call Saturday afternoon, saying the ship was sailing on water. Another call came less than an hour later, reporting that the ship was now leaning 30 degrees.
That was the last message from Kazu 1, when the boat was called. On Sunday afternoon, after more than 24 hours searching for survivors, the coast guard said 10 of the 26 missing had been found, all of which were later declared dead.
It is not yet clear what caused the disaster. But NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, said there were warnings of high winds and waves up to 10 feet high in the area of Kashuni Falls, a popular sightseeing spot on Hokkaido’s Shiretoko peninsula where the boat met first accident. call has been sent. The reef is just below the surface of the water there.
Naomichi Suzuki, governor of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, said police officers and members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces assisted in the search, in waters colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Shiretoko Pleasure Cruiser, the company that owns the Kazu 1, said the boat left the port at Utoro, east of Hokkaido, at 10 a.m. Saturday. It was scheduled to go around the tip of the Shiretoko peninsula and return to Utoro around 1pm
But somewhere along the way, the 19-ton vessel, piloted by the 54-year-old captain and assisted by the 27-year-old deck officer, crashed and began to flood.
The Coast Guard sent five patrol boats and two planes to the area. Tetsuo Saito, Japan’s minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, said that at the time of their arrival, there was no sign of the boat or any people on board.
Early Sunday morning, three people were found at sea, all unresponsive and taken by helicopter to a hospital in Utoro. Another unresponsive person was found on rocks on the shore near Cape Shiretoko, and six more were found later on Sunday.
According to Tetsuya Umemoto, a spokesman for the Abashiri branch of the coast guard, the Kazu 1 ran aground in recent June. None of the 21 passengers on board were subsequently injured, but the coast guard investigated the incident and referred the captain to prosecutors, Mr. Umemoto said. He said the deck officer at the time, Noriyuki Toyoda, was the captain of the cruise on Saturday.