A Japanese cruise ship with more than two dozen people on board, including two children, soon disappeared in the waters off the northern island of Hokkaido.
The 19-ton Kazu 1 made an emergency call around 1:15 p.m. local time, alerting authorities that the vessel was sinking and the bow of the ship was flooded. The ship had 24 passengers and two crew members. Two of the passengers were children.
The ship was last seen on the west side of the Shiretoko Peninsula. The waters on the peninsula are said to be just above freezing and this area is known for ice deposits.
Yoshihiko Yamada, a professor of marine science at the University of Tokyo, said ships like Kazu 1 would probably not carry a lifeboat. The ship was equipped with life jackets.
The ship probably ran aground and sank, he told local TBS television, adding that it was also possible that the vessel was hit by a whale native to the area. Experts said lethal hypothermia would be a clear option given the freezing local temperatures.
The missing ship carried 26 passengers, including two children. Kyodo News via AP
Five Japanese Coast Guard and helicopter patrol boats were sent to scout the area for traces of the boat or the survivors, but they had found nothing on Saturday night local time. The country’s air force has also been activated and the Japanese Ministry of Transport will set up a working group to investigate.
The sightseeing boat is operated by Shiretoko Pleasure Cruiser, which rejected media inquiries on Saturday.
“We receive a lot of calls from traveling families. We have to do it first, “said a spokesman for Kyodo News.
The tourist ship Kazu 1 was last seen on the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido, Japan. KYOTO / via REUTERS
Strong waves up to nine feet high and extreme winds were observed in the area, and locals reported that fishing boats returned to sea soon due to bad weather.
Kyodo News also reported that other ship operators refused to leave that day due to bad weather.
“It simply came to our notice then. In today’s conditions, I would not sail, “said one of the industry’s insiders, according to Kyodo News.
Reporters surrounded the headquarters of Shiretoko Pleasure Cruiser, the company in charge of the lost tourist ship Kazu 1 in Hokkaido, Japan on April 23, 2022. JIJI PRESS / AFP via Getty Images
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has ordered his cabinet to “do everything in their power to save lives,” the Japan Times said.
Kishida, who attended a two-day summit in southern Japan, abruptly canceled Sunday’s plan to return to Tokyo to address the crisis.
This is not the first time Kazu I has gotten into trouble. The ship ran aground last June in an incident, according to local Coast Guard records. No injuries were reported.
Pleasure Cruiser has announced that it is handling “passenger families”. News from Kyodo via AP
Caries 1 can accommodate up to 65 people. The Shiretoko Peninsula is a popular tourist destination and in 2005 was listed as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. The region is also home to a number of species, including dolphins and brown bears.
With pole wires