At least ten dead after tourist boat sinks near world heritage site off coast of Japan


AT LEAST ten people have been killed after a tourist boast went missing off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, according to the Japan Coast Guard.

The search continues for 16 others who were on board the Kazu 1 vessel that sunk on Saturday. The boat with 26 people on board, including two children, went missing in rough conditions after the crew reported it was filling with water and sinking.

There was no sign of survivors off the northern island of Hokkaido after several hours of searching by Japanese coast guard patrol boats, a helicopter and aircraft.

The coastguard later asked the Air Self-Defense Force to join the search-and-rescue operation, with still no signs of life after some unresponsive people were found.

Contact with the vessel was lost after it reported that it was taking in water at 1:15pm on Saturday (4:15am GMT).

The crew had said that the boat called Kazu 1 was tipping at a 30-degree angle and starting to sink.

It is understood to have been on a three-hour sightseeing voyage around the Shiretoko Peninsula.

Five patrol boats and two aircraft were sent to search the area.

The Kazu 1 can hold up to 65 people.

It is believed the two crew and 24 passengers included two children, with all wearing life jackets.

Local fishing boats had returned to port earlier in the mid morning reporting strong winds and high waves at sea.

The Shiretoko Peninsula is a UNESCO designated world heritage site known for wildlife, including the endangered Steller's sea lion, migratory birds and brown bears.

Temperatures in the area can dip as low as zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) at night.

In Tokyo, the transport ministry said it would set up a task force to deal with the accident.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed his Cabinet members to "do everything in their power to save lives," a government official said.