Tourist boat with 26 people on board reported missing in rough waters off Japan

A fishing port where the tour boat went missing in the northern island of Hokkaido. Credit: AP

A tour boat with 26 people aboard was missing off northern Japan on Saturday after issuing a distress call and reporting to be sinking, the coast guard said. No survivors have been found after more than seven hours of an intense search involving six patrol boats and four aircraft. The 19-ton Kazu 1 made an emergency call in early afternoon, saying the ship’s bow had flooded and was beginning to sink and tilt while it was traveling off the western coast of Shiretoko Peninsula in the northern island of Hokkaido, the coast guard said. The coast guard has said the tour boat has since lost contact and was carrying 24 passengers, including two children, and two crew members.

Shiretoko Peninsula in the northern island of Hokkaido. Credit: AP

High waves and strong winds were observed in the area around noon, according to a local fisheries cooperative.

Average April sea temperatures in Shiretoko National Park are just above freezing. An official of the vessel’s operator, Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise, said he could not comment as he had to respond to calls from worried families of the passengers.

According to the operator’s website, the tour takes about three hours and offers a scenic view of the western coast of the peninsula, including of animals such as whales, dolphins and the brown bear.