Tour boat with 26 people missing in northern Japan, search underway

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April 23 (UPI) — A sightseeing boat with 26 people aboard went missing Saturday in northern Japan, authorities said.

Japan Coast Guard received a distress call from the vessel carrying a captain, a crewmember and 24 passengers, including 22 adults and two children, Saturday afternoon indicating the boat had taken on water, the Japan Coast Guard said.

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Waves were about 10-feet high in the area at the time, the Japanese Meteorological Agency said.

According to the distress call, the boat, named “KAZU I,” was at an angle of about 30 degrees at around 3 p.m. local time before it lost contact off the Shiretoko Peninsula on Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, officials said.

The boat had left in the morning on a three-hour excursion to observe wildlife, according to the company that owns and operates the vessel.

The boat’s operator told the Coast Guard passengers and crew were wearing life jackets.

The Guard dispatched a helicopter and patrol boats and the Air Self-Defense Force has agreed to join the search and rescue operation.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed his administration to do “everything in their power to save lives,” a government official told Kyodo News.

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In June the KAZU I ran aground in shallow water shortly after leaving port, the Coast Guard’s regional station in Abashiri reported. No one was injured from that incident.