10 Confirmed Dead, 16 More Missing After Japanese Tour Boat Sank in Frigid Waters

The boat, which carried two children and two crew members among the 26 onboard, issued a distress call at around 1:15 p.m. Saturday

This aerial photo shows the fishing boats conduct search operations for the passengers and crew members on a missing tour boat, off Shiretoko Peninsula, northern Japan of Hokkaido Sunday, April 24, 2022. The Japanese Coast Guard said Sunday that rescue helicopters found several of the 26 people from a tour boat missing in the frigid waters of northern Japan since the day before, but their conditions are unknown. (Masanori Takei/Kyodo News via AP)
Photo: Takei/Kyodo News via AP

Ten passengers out of 26 onboard a Japanese tour boat have been confirmed dead while 16 others are still missing after the boat apparently ran into trouble and sank in rough waters on Saturday, multiple outlets including the Associated Press, CNN and Reuters report.

The search efforts continued on Sunday as rescue workers were dispatched via patrol boats, aircraft and helicopters to find the remaining passengers when authorities lost contact with the Kazu 1 boat near the tip of Cape Shiretoko on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, according to CNN.

The water temperature levels there are approximately 35 to 37 degrees Fahrenheit.

The boat, which carried two children and two crew members among the 26 onboard, issued a distress call around 1:15 p.m. Saturday, Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported. Waves in the area were up to 9.8 feet high.

According to Reuters, nine of the dead were still in the water or at the surrounding rocks.

Photo taken on April 24, 2022, from a Kyodo News helicopter shows a helicopter searching for a tourist boat that went missing with its over 20 passengers and crew the previous day in the Sea of Okhotsk off the Shiretoko Peninsula on the northernmost Japanese main island of Hokkaido. (Kyodo via AP Images) ==Kyodo
Kyodo via AP

Japan's transport minister launched a probe into the boat's operator upon learning about the tragedy, telling reporters on Sunday, per the AP, "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."

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The sightseeing vessel was scheduled to return to the Utoro port by 1 p.m. after departing around 10 a.m. to take the passengers for a scenic tour in an area that is famous for its wildlife and dramatic mountains.

However, the water started to flood the boat in the afternoon before it keeled at a 30-degree angle an hour later, when its operating company last heard from the crew, Kyodo News reports.

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The boat had a history of difficulties: It collided with an object in May, causing three passengers at the time to sustain minor injuries, according to the AP.

In June, the boat also ran aground in shallow water, though no injuries were reported; the operating company was advised to enhance its safety measures.

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