Deep sea divers conclude 2-day search for missing inside sunken Japanese tour boat

2022-05-20 15:18:17Xinhua Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

The Japan Coast Guard said a two-day search operation inside a tourist boat that sank off Hokkaido was concluded on Friday with no bodies of the 12 missing people found.

The deep sea divers, operating at a depth of 120 meters below the surface, were thinking about whether the 19-ton "Kazu I" can be salvaged from the sea bed.

The tour boat went missing on April 23, and 14 of the 26 people on board have been confirmed dead.

The coast guard said on Thursday a body that may be one of the missing was found ashore on Kunashiri Island, an island under Russia's administration and claimed by Japan.

Last week, a woman's body found washed ashore on the island was also believed to be one of the missing.

As for salvaging the boat, Japanese Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito told a press briefing on the matter that steps towards salvaging the tour boat are "progressing steadily, though a final decision to lift it has yet to be made."

Searches for the missing bodies are continuing by sea and air, with the search area being expanded on land in areas south of the peninsula, according to local accounts.

The Kazu I was carrying 26 people when it went missing off the Shiretoko Peninsula in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido on April 23 after making a distress call saying it was taking on water in rough seas.

Contact with the boat was lost at around 1:15 p.m. local time, according to official accounts.

The coast guard and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said the 24 passengers and two crew members were all believed to be wearing life jackets when the boat embarked.

Patrol boats and aircraft have been searching for the missing in the sea around the Shiretoko Peninsula where the vessel sank as well as the area near Kunashiri Island.

The search around the disputed island was made possible as the Russian coast guard permitted Japanese vessels into the area.

The agreement from the Russian side falls in line with the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, a bilateral accord on maritime accidents inked between Tokyo and Moscow.

The sunken tour boat was located on April 29 by sonar equipment, however, following initial searches of the vessel using underwater cameras, no additional bodies were found.

The vessel Kazu I had a history of issues when it collided with a floating object in May last year and injured three passengers.

In June, it ran aground in shallow waters shortly after leaving port, the transport ministry said.

Noriyuki Toyoda, the 54-year-old captain, was referred to prosecutors over the second incident.

Coast guard officials plan to keep communicating with the Russian side to identify recently found bodies. 


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