The death count as a result of a tourist boat that sank in northeastern Japan rose to 11 after rescuers confirmed they found the body of one of the two children who were on board.
The Japanese Coast Guard confirmed on Monday that they had found the body of a 3-year-old girl passenger, whose parents are still missing as of late Sunday.
In addition to the child, authorities have so far recovered the bodies of seven men and three women from the Kazu 1 as of early Sunday.
The tourist boat, operated by Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise, was on a three-hour ride around the Shiretoko National Park in northern Hokkaido Saturday afternoon when the crew sent a distress call saying their boat, which was carrying 26 people, including two children, was sinking.
The area they were in near Kashuni Waterfall is notorious for its “rocky coastline and strong tide,” according to AP. .
The Transport Ministry has reportedly launched an investigation into the operator’s safety standards, as the tour was conducted despite the weather forecast of high waves and strong winds.
“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.
Local fishing boats reportedly returned to port before noon due to the bad weather. A tour boat from another operator also warned Kazu 1 of proceeding to sail in rough weather conditions. Locals and tour operators believe the Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise tour boat was the only one in the area at the time.
Authorities reportedly dispatched five patrol boats and two aircraft during their search late Saturday. They had also asked Japan’s self-defense forces for help, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida giving instructions to use all means necessary in their search.
The Japanese Coast Guard found the remains near the tip of the peninsula, about 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) north of the area where the boat’s distress call was sent. Some bodies were reportedly picked up from the sea, while the others were found washed up on the coast.
Some experts said the April sea temperature in the area, which is near freezing, and the high winds make for low survival chances.
Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise purportedly informed the coast guard that all passengers on the tourist boat were wearing a life vest, although some of the bodies recovered were not wearing any. The coast guard said they also found the boat’s square lifesaving floats along the coast’s rocks.
The recent incident follows two accidents Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise had last year, according to AP. A boat run by the same captain of the Kazu 1 reportedly ran aground in June 2021, while another boat experienced a collision in May that resulted in minor injuries to its passengers.
Featured Image via xiquinhosilva; Flickr (CC BY 2.0)