Sunken Japanese boat salvaged after a month, 12 still missing

·2-min read
An underwater camera captures the sinking tour boat off Shiretoko Peninsula (EPA)
An underwater camera captures the sinking tour boat off Shiretoko Peninsula (EPA)

The wreckage of a tourist boat that sank off Japan's Hokkaido island last month has been salvaged and brought to the port of Abashiri on Friday. Of the 26 people who were on board, 14 are dead, while 12 others are still reported missing.

The Kazu 1 is being transported on a barge and will be brought ashore on Sunday, the Japan Coast Guard said.

It was placed on the deck of the barge by a salvage company around 3.20am on Friday after it was raised by a crane from a depth of 182 metres, Japan Today reported.

Since divers found no trace of any survivors at the site of the wreck, authorities are continuing to search for the 12 people unaccounted for using ships and planes.

On 23 April, the boat with two crew was taking 24 passengers, including two children, on a scenic, three-hour tour around the Shiretoko Peninsula, famous for its wildlife and dramatic coastline, when it sunk.

The coastguard received an emergency distress call from the Kazu 1 boat around 1.15pm local time saying that its bow had been flooded and was beginning to sink and tilt.

The boat was first located on the seabed on 29 April, at a depth of around 120m near Kashuni Falls, a popular scenic site near the tip of the peninsula from where it had issued the distress call.

However, while being pulled to shallow waters, the boat dropped back to the seabed.

The bodies were recovered near the tip of the peninsula, about 14km north of where the boat sent a distress call.

Boat operator Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise has been accused of not taking adequate safety measures as it conducted the tour despite rough weather warnings.

The coast guard said that the same boat had met an accident last year in May and June. After those accidents, authorities had instructed the boat operator to improve its safety standards.

Prime minister Fumio Kishida rapped authorities saying the transport ministry was not able to fully fulfil its responsibilities.

“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 had said in April.

The government is communicating with their Russian counterparts after two bodies of possible missing people were found washed up on Kunashiri, one of four Moscow-controlled islands north of Hokkaido.

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