At least 10 died after the tour boat sank in Japan

TOKYO – At least 10 people who had been on a sightseeing boat that sank off the Japanese island of Hokkaido on Saturday have died, Japan’s Coast Guard said Sunday. Sixteen other people were still missing.

The ship had 24 passengers on board when its two crew members sent an emergency call Saturday afternoon, saying the boat was on its way to the water. Another call came less than an hour after it reported that the vessel was now tilting 30 degrees.

That was the last message from Kazu 1, as the boat was called. On Sunday afternoon, after more than 24 hours of searching for survivors, the Coast Guard said 10 of the 26 missing people had been recovered, all of whom were later pronounced dead.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the disaster. But NHK, the Japanese public television station, said there had been warnings of strong winds and waves of up to 10 feet in the area of ​​Kashuni Falls, a well-known sightseeing spot on the Hokkaido Shiretoko Peninsula, where the boat had been when the first distress. the call was sent. Reefs are just below the surface of the water there.

Naomichi Suzuki, the governor of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, said police and members of Japan’s self-defense forces had helped with the search in water colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Shiretoko Pleasure Cruiser, the company that owns Kazu 1, said the boat left the port of Utoro in eastern Hokkaido at 6 p.m. 10 Saturday. It was planned to travel around the tip of the Shiretoko Peninsula and return to Utoro around noon.

But somewhere along the way, the 19-tonne vessel, piloted by a 54-year-old captain with the assistance of a 27-year-old deck officer, ran into trouble and began to flood.

The Coast Guard sent five patrol vessels and two aircraft to the area. When they arrived, there were no signs of the boat or any of the people who had been on board, said Tetsuo Saito, Japan’s Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

Early Sunday morning, three people were found at sea, all responding, and taken by helicopter to a hospital in Utoro. Another unresponsive person was found on the rocks off the coast near Cape Shiretoko, and six more were found later Sunday.

Kazu 1 had run aground as late as June, according to Tetsuya Umemoto, a spokesman for the Abashiri branch of the Coast Guard. None of the 21 passengers on board were injured at the time, but the Coast Guard investigated the incident and referred the captain to prosecutors alleging negligence, Mr Umemoto said. He said the deck officer at the time, Noriyuki Toyoda, was the captain of Saturday’s voyage.

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