Tourist boat with 26 aboard loses contact off Hokkaido

Baku, April 23, AZERTAC

A tourist boat with 26 crew and passengers including two children lost contact after reporting it was taking on water off eastern Hokkaido on Saturday, the Japan Coast Guard said, according to Kyodo News.

The coast guard, which received the report around 1:15 p.m., said it had not found the boat "KAZU I" nor the people on board as of 8 p.m., adding that their fate remains unknown.

Twenty-two adults and two children were aboard the boat along with two crew members, according to the JCG.

According to the JCG's regional station in Abashiri, the same boat ran aground in shallow water shortly after leaving port in June last year. No one was injured in that accident.

In the latest incident, a helicopter and patrol boats were dispatched to the site near the Shiretoko Peninsula, part of which has been designated as a World Natural Heritage site, to implement a rescue.

The boat reported to its operator that it was tilting 30 degrees around 3 p.m. before losing contact, the JCG said.

High waves and strong winds were observed in the area around noon, according to the local fisheries cooperative. Its fishing boats returned to port before noon because of the bad weather, it said.

The peninsula in the northeast of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's four main islands, is known as a popular destination for spotting drift ice and was designated as a World Natural Heritage site in 2005. It is a habitat for many rare species of animals and plants.

The boat was cruising off Kashuni Falls, a famous scenic site near the tip of the peninsula, when the JCG received the report of the accident, it said.

The boat can accommodate as many as 65 people, according to the website of its operator.

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