Eleven tourists dead as tour boat sinks in rough weather

Rescuers have found the body of an 11th victim as the search continues for the 26 people onboard Kazu I which sank off far north-eastern Japan on Saturday.

The tour boat, which reportedly sailed in rough weather to a hazardous location, sent a distress signal at 1.13pm on Saturday saying it was sinking in the frigid waters off off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaidō.

The crew said water was flooding into the stern of the vessel, the public broadcaster NHK said, that those onboard were wearing lifejackets, and the boat was heeling at a 30-degree angle.

Coastguards dispatched five patrol boats and two aircraft in the search, it was reportedly about three hours before the first rescuers arrived at the scene.

The location was near Kashuni Waterfall, which is known as a difficult place to manoeuvre boats because of its rocky coastline and strong tide, according to The Guardian.

The transport ministry said it was investigating the boat’s operator, Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise, which had two accidents last year, including one that also involved the captain of the Kazu I. The ministry said it was looking into safety standards and the decision to conduct the tour despite rough weather on Saturday.

Yoshihiko Yamada, a Tokai University marine science professor, told The Guardian the boat was likely to have run aground after being tossed around in high waves and becoming damaged and flooded.

A tour boat of that size usually does not carry a life boat, and passengers may not have been able to jump out of the sinking vessel because its windows are likely to have been closed to shield them from strong winds, Yamada said.

The bodies recovered Sunday were found in the same area near the tip of the peninsula, about 14km (8.7 miles) north from where the boat sent a distress call. Some were in the sea, others were washed on to the rocks.

Orange, square lifesaving floats with the boat’s name on them were also found on the rocks, the coast guard said.

Comments are closed.