Of the 26 people on board at the time of the incident, 24 were passengers, two of whom were minors and the remaining two captains and crew members.
Ten people were killed and 16 are still missing as a result of the sinking of a tourist boat in northern Japan on the island of Hokkaido on the Shiretoko Peninsula, the Coast Guard said on Sunday.
“We confirm the deaths of all 10 people” found after the sinking of the Kazu I boat, a Coast Guard spokesman told Agence France-Press (AFP), adding that the search for the missing continued.
There were 26 people in the sinking boat on Saturday afternoon, including two crews and 24 passengers, two of whom were children. The 10 confirmed deaths are seven men and three women.
According to the Associated Press (AP), the Japanese Ministry of Transport has launched an investigation into the operator of a ship that was injured in two accidents last year.
Despite the forecast for bad weather, the tourist ship “Kazu I” set sail on the morning of the Shiretoko Peninsula on Saturday morning, in an unspoilt natural area in northern Japan northeast of the large island of Hokkaido.
The crew sent an emergency call at 13.13 local time (04.13 GMT) and announced that the boat was sinking with the bow tilted 30 degrees.
The Coast Guard arrived at the scene just three hours later, followed by search operations at sea and by air forces involving police, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and local fishermen.
In an aerial view of the Japanese public television channel NHK, a helicopter and patrol boats surveyed the coast of the peninsula and rescue teams on land watching the coast, which was very rugged and high waves, exploding to foam against large rocks.
In another Coast Guard footage, rescue teams inspected rock crevices and some artifacts marked “Kazu I” that sank ashore.
All the passengers wore life jackets, but the waters in the area at this time of year are very cold, with temperatures of only two or three degrees during the day and in some places even frost.
The sea was also hard at the time of the accident, causing nearby fishing boats to return to port before noon on Saturday due to high waves and strong winds, according to a local fishing cooperative quoted by the Japanese press office Kyodo.
“The waves were expected to rise higher and higher. I wouldn’t have gone overboard in such conditions,” a local tour operator told Kyodo on Saturday.
According to Japanese media, “Kazu I” had already suffered damage during the voyage last June when it hit shallow waters near its home port. The incident did not result in personal injury, but the captain of the boat was subjected to police investigation for negligence.
The Shiretoco Peninsula is a major tourist destination in Hokkaido and has been a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site since 2005 due to its significant terrestrial and marine ecosystems.