Japan: feared sinking of a tourist boat with 26 people on board

Eva Deschamps / April 24, 2022

A tourist boat with 26 people on board was still being sought Saturday night by the coast guard in northern Japan, after warning several hours earlier that it was sinking, local media reported.
The Kazu 1 was sailing in cold and rough waters not far from the island of Hokkaido (northern Japan) when it sent a distress call at around 1:15 p.m. local time, according to the Japanese public television channel NHK.
Contact was subsequently lost with the boat, and help did not arrive in the area until several hours later.
A coast guard official confirmed to AFP on Saturday that a rescue operation was underway, but gave no further details.
The boat and its occupants - 24 passengers including two children, as well as two crew members according to the media - had still not been located at 21:30 Japanese time, and the search was continuing despite the darkness.
The crew and passengers were equipped with life jackets according to NHK, but the temperatures are very cold in the region, around zero degrees Celsius at night currently.
In addition, fishing boats in the area had returned to port by Saturday noon due to high waves and strong wind, according to a local fishing cooperative quoted by the Japanese news agency Kyodo.
The Kazu 1 was sailing near the Shiretoko Peninsula, a remote natural site in the northeast of Hokkaido, classified since 2005 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its remarkable land and marine ecosystems.
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