A boat carrying 24 tourists, including two children, has disappeared off the east coast of the Japanese island of Hokkaido. The crew sent a distress message, according to the Coast Guard, reporting that the vessel was leaking water.
A helicopter and patrol boats were dispatched for a rescue at the specified location near the Shiretoko Peninsula, a UNESCO-recognized nature reserve. The Coast Guard, which received the report around 1:15 p.m. local time (6:15 a.m. CET), said they had not located the boat Kazu I and those on board by 5:30 p.m.
According to the Japanese public broadcaster NHK told the crew that the bow of their boat was leaking and the hull had heeled about 30 degrees as a result and was sinking. Then contact with the two crew members was lost. Search helicopters did not arrive in the area until four hours after the emergency call. The crew and passengers received life jackets before departure, according to the broadcaster.
Nothing is known about the nationality of the tourists.
According to the local fishing cooperative, high waves and strong winds were observed in the area around noon. Due to bad weather, the fishing boats returned to port.
The boat was cruising past Kashuni Falls, a famous scenic spot near the tip of the peninsula, according to the Mainichi Shimbun, one of Japan’s leading newspapers, when the coastguard received the distress call. According to the operator’s website, the boat can accommodate up to 65 people.
Located on the northeast peninsula of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands, Shiretoko National Park is known as a popular destination for spotting drifting ice. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 2005 and is home to many rare animal and plant species.
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