Japan missing tour boat: 10 of 26 people confirmed dead

TOKYO, Japan – Rescuers say 10 people pulled from the icy sea and rocky shore of a northern Japanese national park on Sunday have died, a day after a 26-passenger cruise ship apparently sank in turbulent waters, causing questions why he was allowed to sail.

The search for the others continues, after the boat sent an emergency call on Saturday afternoon saying that it was sinking. The location, near Kashuni Waterfall, is known as a difficult place to maneuver by boat due to the rocky shoreline and strong tide.

There were two crew members and 24 passengers, including two children, in the 19-tonne Kazu 1 when it ran into problems off the west coast of the Shiretoko Peninsula. The Coast Guard said the 10 victims – seven men and three women – were adults.

The Ministry of Transport has launched an investigation into the pilot of the boat, who had two accidents last year. The ministry said it was considering safety standards and the decision to tour despite the bad weather on Saturday.

The pilot, Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise, had been instructed to take steps to improve his safety after previous accidents in which he ran aground in June without causing injuries and another in May, when three passengers were slightly injured when the boat collided with an object.

“We will thoroughly investigate what caused this situation and what kind of security surveillance was included to allow the tour to prevent another accident,” Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito, who visited the area on Sunday, told reporters.

After an intensive search of six patrol boats, several aircraft and divers overnight, rescuers found four people near the shores of the Shiretoko Peninsula early Sunday morning and later six others in the same area, about 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) north from where the vessel sent an emergency call. Some of them were removed from the sea, while others were washed ashore.

An orange, square-shaped lifeboat with the boat’s name was also found near the rocks, the coast guard said.

Footage from the public television network NHK showed one of the victims arriving by helicopter and being transported to an ambulance on a stretcher. Rescuers were holding blue plastic shields to protect the victim’s privacy.

The sightseeing boat made an emergency call early Saturday afternoon, saying its bow had flooded and it had begun to sink and tilt, the coast guard said. Contact with the boat had since been lost. The Coast Guard said the pilot told them that everyone on board was wearing a life jacket, but some of the victims found were without them.

The average April sea temperature in Shiretoko National Park is just above zero, which experts say would cause hypothermia.

“It’s a very serious situation, especially when it’s raining,” June Abe, vice president of the Water Rescue and Survival Research Company, told TBS TV.

Yoshihiko Yamada, a professor of marine science at Tokai University, said the boat may have sunk after it was launched in large waves and damaged. A boat of this size usually does not carry a lifeboat, he said.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has cut short a two-day summit in Kumamoto, southern Japan, and returned to Tokyo. He told reporters early Sunday that he had instructed officials to “do whatever they can to rescue”.

The causes of the accident are being investigated, but officials and experts suspect that it is a safety negligence.

Strong waves and strong winds were forecast when the boat left and Japanese media reported that the fishing boats returned to port before noon on Saturday due to bad weather.

A cruise ship crew belonging to another pilot told NHK that they warned the Kazu 1 crew of rough seas and told them not to go. He also said that the same boat ran aground last year and suffered a crack in his bow.

Saturday’s tour was reportedly the first by pilot this season, and the accident just before Japan’s Golden Week holiday, which begins in late April, could limit local tourism, which collapsed during the pandemic. Japan is still largely closed to foreign visitors.

Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki told reporters Sunday that he planned to request security checks from county tour operators ahead of the holidays.

According to the operator’s website, the tour lasts about three hours and offers scenic views of the west coast of the peninsula and an opportunity to see whales, dolphins and brown bears. The national park has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is famous as the southernmost area where there is drifting sea ice.

Copyright © 2022 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Japan missing tour boat: 10 of 26 people confirmed dead Source link Japan missing tour boat: 10 of 26 people confirmed dead

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