A rescue helicopter found four of the 26 people from a missing tourist boat off the Shiretoko peninsula.
The Japan Coast Guard said it had found four people from a tour boat that had gone missing with 26 people on board in the icy waters north of Japan. But it is not clear whether the four are still alive.
Three people were spotted by police helicopters near the tip of the Shiretoko peninsula early Sunday morning, the coast guard said, with a fourth being spotted by a coast guard plane in the same area about 30 minutes later. .
The condition of the four people is unknown, and it is not clear if they were on land or at sea when they were found.
“They are being transported to seek medical attention,” a coastguard spokesman told AFP news agency. “Other details are still unclear.”
Public broadcaster NHK said four people were unconscious.
Footage on NHK showed one of the rescued people arriving in a helicopter and being transported to an ambulance on a stretcher, while rescuers held up a blue plastic shield to protect privacy.
Sunday’s rescue came after nearly 19 hours of intense searching involving six patrol boats, several planes and divers. The Coast Guard said the search continued into the night.
The Kazu 1 made an emergency call early Saturday afternoon, saying its bow was flooded and it began to sink and tilt while sailing off the west coast of the Shiretoko peninsula near the island of Hokkaido. in the north, the coast guard said.
Kyodo news says it is turning at a 30-degree angle.
The crew said those on board were all wearing life jackets, media reported.
There were 24 passengers and two crew members. Two of the passengers were children.
The average April sea temperature in Shiretoko National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site in 2005, is just above freezing.
Sightseeing boat trips in the area are popular with visitors hoping to spot whales, birds and other wildlife, as well as icebergs in the winter.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was attending a two-day summit in Kumamoto, southern Japan, canceled his program for a second day and returned to Tokyo. He told reporters in the early hours of Sunday that he had instructed officials “to do everything they can to rescue”.
The cause of the accident is still under investigation, but experts suspect the boat ran aground and was damaged.
High waves and strong winds were observed in the area around noon Saturday, according to a local fisheries cooperative. Japanese media reported that the fishing boats had returned to port before noon because of bad weather.
NHK said there was a warning for waves up to 3 meters (9 feet) high.