10 dead and 16 unaccounted for after Japan tour boat sinks

24 passengers and two crew members were on board (Picture: AP/Reuters/Regional Coast Guard)

At least 10 of the 26 people on board a tour boat that sank in Japan have died, the country’s coast guard has confirmed.

Seven men and three women are among the dead after the ship went down in freezing waters of a northern national park, which has seen previous accidents.

The search for those who are unaccounted for is still ongoing a day after the boat sent a distress call saying it was sinking.

There were two crew and 24 passengers, including two children, on the tour boat when it ran into troubles on Saturday afternoon near the tip of Shiretoko Peninsula.

Earlier, the authorities had said rescue helicopters had found nine people – but did not confirm if any of them were alive.

NHK public television said they were unconscious.

Footage on the channel showed one of the rescued people arriving on a helicopter and being transferred to an ambulance on a stretcher, while rescuers held up blue plastic shields for privacy.

A helicopter searches for missing people aboard the missing tour boat ‘Kazu 1’ (Picture: Reuters)
Firefighters transfer a rescued person – but it is unclear if they survived (Picture: AP)
Fishing boats conduct search operations off Shiretoko Peninsula (Picture: AP)

It came after rescuers intensified their search earlier on Sunday and found four people near the tip of Shiretoko Peninsula and five more people in the same area a few hours later.

The coast guard said all of them were found in the area near the tip of the peninsula north of where the boat sent a distress call on Saturday.

The location is known as a difficult place to manoeuvre boats because of its rocky coastline and the same tour boat had an accident there last year.

An orange-coloured, square-shaped lifesaving float with the boat’s name on it was also seen on the rocky coast.

The seas were rough in the area where the incident happened (Picture: AFP)
Coast Guard personnel conducting a search and rescue operation (Picture: AFP)

Sunday’s rescue came after nearly 19 hours of intense search involving six patrol boats, several aircraft and divers. The coast guard said the search continued through the night.

The 19-tonne Kazu 1 made an emergency call saying the ship’s bow had flooded and it was beginning to sink and tilt while travelling off the western coast on the northern island of Hokkaido.

A tour boat crew belonging to another operator told NHK that he warned of rough seas when he spotted the Kazu 1 crew and told them not to go.

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