10 people died after 26 Japanese tour boats in the sink

Tokyo — Rescue teams said 10 people were killed on Sunday after the 26-person tour boat sank into the rough seas, recovered from the frigid waters and the rocky shores of Japan’s national parks. sail.

The search for others is still underway after sending a distress signal that the boat is sinking on Saturday afternoon. The location near Kashni Falls is known as a difficult place to maneuver a boat due to its rocky coastline and strong tides.

The 19-ton sum 1 that had trouble while sailing on the west coast of the Shiretoko Peninsula had 24 passengers, including two crew members and two children. The Coast Guard said 10 victims (7 men and 3 women) were adults.

The Ministry of Transport has begun investigating the operators of ships that have caused two accidents last year. The ministry said it is considering safety standards and a decision to conduct a tour despite bad weather on Saturday.

The operator, Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise, is taking measures to improve safety in response to an accident in which the ship ran ashore without being injured in June and an accident in which a boat collided with an object in May and three passengers were slightly injured. I was instructed to take.

Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito, who visited the area on Sunday, told reporters, “A thorough investigation into the cause of this situation and what safety surveillance was done to allow the tour to prevent the next accident. I will do it. “

After an intensive search of six patrol boats, several aircraft, and divers overnight, early Sunday, four rescuers were rescued near the tip of the Shiretoko Peninsula, and then another six in the same area. discovered. Where the boat sent a distress signal. Some of them were pulled out of the sea, while others were washed away on the rocky shores.

According to the Coast Guard, an orange square life-saving float with the name of the boat was also found near the rock.

NHK footage showed that one of the victims arrived in a helicopter and was transferred to an ambulance on a stretcher. The rescue team raised a blue plastic shield to protect the privacy of the victims.

According to the Coast Guard, the tour boat made an emergency call early Saturday afternoon saying that the bow had flooded, began to sink, and began to tilt. Since then, contact with the boat has been lost. The Coast Guard said operators were wearing life jackets for everyone on the boat, but some of the victims found were not wearing life jackets.

Japanese firefighter
Firefighters will transfer people recovered from a tour boat accident on the northern island of Hokkaido, Shari, on April 24, 2022. (Koki Sengoku / Kyodo News via AP)

The average seawater temperature in April in Shiretoko National Park is slightly above freezing, and experts say that it causes hypothermia.

“It’s very difficult, especially when it’s wet,” Atsushi Abe, vice president of the Water Rescue and Survival Research Association, told TBSTV.

Professor Yoshihiko Yamada of the School of Marine Science and Technology, Tokai University, said that it is highly possible that he was stranded after being caught in a high wave and damaged. Boats of that size usually do not carry lifeboats, he said.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida returned to Tokyo after shortening his attendance at the two-day summit meeting held in Kumamoto. He told reporters early on Sunday that he had instructed the authorities to “do everything he could to rescue him.”

The cause of the accident is under investigation, but authorities and experts suspect safety errors.

Strong waves and strong winds were expected when the boat departed, and Japanese media reported that the fishing boat had returned to the port by noon on Saturday due to bad weather.

A tour boat crew member belonging to another operator told NHK that he warned the crew of Kazu 1 about the rough seas and told them not to go. He also said the same boat ran aground last year and her bow was cracked.

Saturday’s tour is reportedly the first tour of the season, and an accident just before Japan’s Golden Week holidays, which begins in late April, could undermine local tourism that was depressed during the pandemic. Japan is still mostly closed to foreign tourists.

The governor of Hokkaido, Naomichi, told reporters on Sunday that he would ask a tour operator in the prefecture for a safety check before the holidays.

According to the operator’s website, the tour takes about 3 hours and offers beautiful views of the west coast of the peninsula, including whales, dolphins and brown bears. The national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is famous as the southernmost region where sea ice drifts.

Mari Yamaguchi

Associated Press