TOKYO – All 26 people on board a sightseeing boat were reported missing off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, on Saturday after the boat in distress called the Japan Coast Guard early o’clock in the afternoon and said it was sinking.
The Coast Guard dispatched rescue ships and planes after the cruise ship’s crew called to say the ship was tilting 30 degrees near the Shiretoko Peninsula on Hokkaido’s east coast.
According to public broadcaster NHK, the first distress call came around 1:15 p.m. from KAZU 1, a sightseeing vessel that was making a planned three-hour round-trip cruise to Cape Shiretoko. A regional unit of the Coast Guard in Hokkaido told NHK that the crew reported that the boat was sailing on water. One last call to the company at 3pm
Tetsuo Saito, Japan’s minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, told reporters late Saturday that Coast Guard ships arrived at the scene around 4:30 p.m. and Haven’t found any survivors yet.
Saito said 24 passengers, including two children, were on board, along with the captain and a deck officer. He said all were wearing life jackets.
Early Sunday, NHK reported that four people on the boat had been found, but they did not provide information on their condition.
According to NHK, the Coast Guard dispatched five patrol boats and two planes in strong wind conditions to the famous Kashuni Falls area, where the boat was when the first call arrived and where there were hidden reefs in the sea. Public broadcaster reported that there were warnings for waves as high as 10 feet on Saturday.
One man who answered the phone Saturday night at Shiretoko Pleasure Cruiser, the owner of the cruise boat, said he was unable to answer questions because he needed to “priority talk with families first.” “.
The Shiretoko Pleasure Cruiser website advertises the three-hour Cape Shiretoko tour as an opportunity for visitors to see Kashuni Falls as well as brown bears, eagles, dolphins and whales. “It’s a truly unexplored area and can only be reached by boat,” the tour description reads.
According to NHK, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida returned to Tokyo early from Kumamoto, where he attended a conference.
Hikari Hida contribution report.