The rescue helicopters on Sunday had ten of the 26 people on the tour boat that went missing in the frigid waters of Hokkaido a day before. Among the ten people found are seven men and three women.
The coast guards had said earlier that nine people were found near the tip of the peninsula of the country’s northern coast where the boat had first sent out a distress call on Saturday. It was unclear then if the tourists were alive.
The boat, Kazu 1, had been on a sightseeing cruise around the Shiretoko Peninsula, famous for its wildlife and dramatic coastline. It was around 1.15pm local time, the crew sent a distress call to the coast guard informing them about the water flooding into the vessel.
The officials last heard from the crew at around 3pm, reported Japan’s Kyodo news agency.
More than 24 hours into the search, rescuers intensified the operation and are using aircraft and patrol boats, including seven ships, three planes and four helicopters to search for the remaining passengers.
The first report of rescue came 19 hours after the search began, with the rescuers finding four people near the tip of Shiretoko Peninsula. Five more people were found in the same area a few hours later.
One of the rescued persons was brought to the hospital in a helicopter before they were transferred to an ambulance on a stretcher, showed the footage on NHK. The rescuers held blue plastic shields for privacy.
Prime minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Sunday that he instructed officials “to do everything they can for the rescue.”
The transport ministry of the country has also launched a probe into the boat’s operator over its safety standards and its decision to conduct the tour despite the rough weather.
“We will thoroughly investigate what caused this situation and what kind of safety oversight was involved to allow the tour in order to prevent another accident,” said transport minister Tetsuo Saito.
The experts suspect there may be safety negligence, and the boat ran aground and was damaged in the water from the strong currents and a rocky coastline.
The ministry will also look into the relation between Saturday’s incident to the previous two accidents involving the same boat, said Mr Saito. The coast guard earlier said that the same boat met an accident last year in May and June.
While no one was injured when the boat went aground in June, three passengers suffered minor injuries after the boat collided with an object at sea last May.
Additional reporting from the wires