Hokkaido prefecture’s First Regional Coast Guard Headquarters said that the fishing patrol boat found the girl unresponsive on Sunday at 8.55pm around 14.5km east of a lighthouse on Cape Shiretoko. They were only able to pull her out of the water about two hours later.
Carrying 26 people, including two children and two crew members, the tourist boat Kazu 1 had been on a sightseeing cruise around the Shiretoko Peninsula, famous for its wildlife and dramatic coastline, when it sank off the coast of northeastern Japan amid rough seas on Saturday.
Around 1.15pm local time on Saturday, the crew sent a distress call to the coast guard informing them about water flooding into the vessel. Officials last heard from the crew around 3pm.
On Sunday, authorities found the bodies of 10 victims about 15km from Kashuni Falls, from where the boat is believed to have sounded the distress call.
Search operations for the remaining passengers were carried out on Monday with the help of six patrol boats, eight aircraft of the coast guard and local fishing boats, according to Japanese daily The Asahi Shimbun.
A coast guard vessel with sonar is conducting an undersea search to find the boat and any passengers trapped inside.
Japan’s transport ministry has begun an investigation into Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise, the firm that operated Kazu 1.
The ministry has said it was looking into the safety standards followed and the decision to venture into the sea despite 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,” transport minister Tetsuo Saito said on Sunday after his visit to the area.
This is not the first time the Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise has been embroiled in a boat accident as two such incidents were also reported last year.