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HomeMaritimeThe search continues into the missing Japanese tourist boat, with at least...

The search continues into the missing Japanese tourist boat, with at least 11 dead

Search efforts are continuing to scour areas near the island of Hokkaido after a boat. The boat went missing on Saturday, several hours after departing for a tour of the Shiretoko Peninsula, famous for its seemingly untouched coastal scenery and wildlife. The “Kazu I” was carrying 24 passengers, including two children and two crew members, and vanished. The only indication of wreckage is the few orange floatation devices with the boat’s name washing up near a rocky area along the coastline. 

On Monday, the search for evidence and survivors resumed with aircraft and patrol boats, with local fishing boats from the port of Utoro also being deployed, according to media reports. Searchers also hiked along the shoreline’s rocky cliffs. There wasn’t much hope when local fisheries were talking about the temperatures of the water, “Just a few minutes in that sort of water would start clouding your consciousness.” According to local officials, drift ice can be seen in waters as late as March, and water temperatures now would be 2 to 3 degrees Celsius.

Media reports state that the waves were unusually high on Saturday. Even fishing boats that left early in the morning were forced to return to port quickly due to the hazardous conditions. Kyodo’s news agency reported that the ship was last heard from around 3 pm. The captain informed its operating company that the vessel was keeling at a 30-degree angle in a distress call. The crew said those on board were wearing life jackets, public broadcaster NHK said. No one answered calls to the company’s office that runs the Kazu I’s sightseeing tours.

On Sunday, the Transport Ministry sent officials to coordinate search operations. An investigator from the Japan Transport Safety Board told reporters they were collecting information starting from the harsh weather to the conditions of the vessel to find out the cause. The Minister of Transport, Tetsuo Saito, also having gone to the site, urged for all possible measures to be made to figure out what went wrong and keep it from occurring again. 

Among the eleven dead was one child. Interestingly enough, the ship had been put into hot water before, in May of 2021, the same vessel was in an accident that injured three people and ran aground in shallow water shortly after leaving port in June. After receiving a message from Kazu I around 1:15 pm (local time) that water was flooding into the vessel, the coastguard later announced how difficult it would be to say what had happened to the ship until more evidence or debris gets found.

Many have questioned why it took hours to get rescue efforts to save the sinking ship. However, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki said the nearest military aircraft were based 150 km away and on patrol at the time. He also added that the sea and weather conditions made it take longer than usual for the coast guard ships to arrive timely at the time of the wreckage. 



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