Sunday, October 2, 2022

As death toll from sunken tourist boat in Japan rises, officials prepare criminal case

Rescuers searching for a tour boat carrying 26 people who drowned in far-northeast Japan have found the body of the 11th victim – a child – as questions arose that the ship was a known hazard in bad weather. Why did you leave the place?

Japan’s Coast Guard said on Monday that the child was found late Sunday and was later confirmed dead.

Earlier on Sunday, bodies of seven men and three women were recovered.

The two crew of the boat, called Kaiju 1, were carrying 24 passengers, including two children, on a scenic tour in Shiretoko National Park in the northern part of Japan’s northernmost main island, Hokkaido, when they hit a critical junction on Saturday afternoon. Call sent. Says it’s drowning.

The place was near the Kasuni Falls, which is known to be a difficult spot for boats due to its rocky shoreline and strong tides.

The bodies recovered on Sunday were found near the tip of the peninsula in the same area, about 14 kilometers north of where the boat sent the distress call.

Some were plucked from the sea, and some were found where they washed up on rocks.

Aerial view of a helicopter flying over and under rocks near the sea, splashing water.
A helicopter of the Japan Coast Guard conducts a search and rescue operation.,Kyodo News via Reuters,

Japan’s transport ministry is investigating boat operator Shiretoko Pleasure Cruises, which had two accidents last year, one involving the captain of a drowned cashew.

The ministry said it was looking into the decision to hold Saturday’s tour despite the safety standards and inclement weather.

Japan’s Coast Guard says it is still prioritizing the search and rescue of missing people while gathering evidence toward a criminal case suspected of professional negligence.

Japan’s Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito said, “We will conduct a thorough investigation into what caused this situation and what kind of safety monitoring was involved to allow the tour to prevent another accident.”

Searches resumed on Monday using aircraft and patrol boats, with local media reporting that fishing boats from Utoro port were also used.

The crew members of a fishing boat stand on its deck, dressed in high-jackets and high boots.
The crew members of the fishing boats reportedly took part in the search operation, which continued for the third day on Monday.,Kyodo News via Associated Press: Koki Sengoku,

Operator was asked to improve safety procedures

Shiretoko Pleasure Cruise was instructed to improve its safety after accidents last year.

In June, a boat capsized without any injuries and in May, a boat collided with an object, causing minor injuries to three passengers.

The same captain of the drowned Cashew 1 in the June crash was involved.

Japan’s Coast Guard said a case related to the June incident was pending with local prosecutors for further criminal investigation.

Shiretoko Pleasure Cruises says its three-hour tour offers views of the west coast of the Shiratoko Peninsula and the chance to see whales, dolphins, and brown bears.

Company officials have so far declined to comment on the disappearance of Cashew 1.

The city of Sherry, where the boat operator is located, says company officials are meeting with the families of passengers at a facility in the city.

Some victims found without life support

Japan’s Coast Guard said orange swimming devices bearing the name of the boat were found near bodies washed up on rocks.

Officials said the boat’s operator had told them all aboard the ship were wearing life vests, but some of the victims found were without them.

Experts and local fishermen and boat operators say they believe the boat was likely to capsize after being tossed around in high waves and strong winds.

Average April sea temperatures in the region are slightly above freezing.

Experts say that the low temperature and strong winds reduce the chances of survival.

A bird's eye view of swimming equipment, a box labeled 'Kazoo 1' and some ropes floating in the water near the rocks.
Floating equipment from a missing boat is seen in a rocky coastal area of ​​the Shiretoko Peninsula.,Japan Coast Guard via Reuters,

Kazuhiko Fukayama, head of the local fisheries cooperative, told Japan’s NHK television that it was unimaginable for the voyage to proceed in weather that would be difficult for so many hardened travelers to just stand up to.

Accounts from local fishermen and tour boat operators suggest that Kazoo 1 was the only boat in the area when it disappeared, and no other boats were around to help until the first Coast Guard rescuers arrived at the scene three hours later. did not arrive.

Questions have been raised about why it took so long for rescuers to arrive at the boat’s first distress call, but Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki said the closest military aircraft were located 150 kilometers away.

Sea and weather conditions meant it took longer than usual for Coast Guard ships to arrive, Mr Isozaki said.

Tour operators asked to conduct emergency inspection

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara said the Japanese government has instructed tour operators traveling across the country to conduct emergency inspections of their boats to ensure their safe operation.

The Saturday tour of Cashew 1 was reportedly the first tour by its operator this season.

The crash, which happened just ahead of Japan’s Golden Week holidays in late April, could hit local tourism, which collapsed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Japan is still largely closed to foreign visitors.

Associated Press/Reuters

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