10 Dead, 18 Missing in Tour Boat Casualty off Hokkaido
The Japan Coast Guard reported Sunday that at least 10 people have died in a tour boat accident off the coast of Hokkaido.
The tour boat Kazu I was out on a cruise excursion off the west coast of Hokkaido's Shiretoko Peninsula on Saturday, and it had 26 passengers and two crewmembers on board. The vessel issued a distress call at about 1315 and reported flooding. The operator received a final message from the crew two hours later, and they reported that the vessel had taken on a list of about 30 degrees.
The Japan Coast Guard launched an extensive search and rescue operation, dispatching four helicopters, three aircraft and seven patrol vessels. 10 bodies have been located so far, including seven men and three women, according to the service. The water temperature in Japan's northern coastal regions is very low, approaching freezing, and survival times are limited.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has personally urged his cabinet to take every possible measure to rescue survivors from the casualty, and Japan's ministry of transport has announced the creation of a task force to oversee the incident response.
The vessel has not been located, and no sign of a debris field has yet been found. A spokesperson for the vessel operator, Shiretoko Pleasure Cruiser, declined a request for comment from Kyodo News.
The Shiretoko Peninsula is a popular tourism destination, and it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In early spring, drift ice from the Sea of Okhotsk can often be found in the waters off its coastline.