Deep-sea divers wrap up 2-day search for missing inside sunken Japanese tour boat

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The Japanese Coast Guard said a two-day search operation inside a sightseeing boat that sank off Hokkaido ended on Friday without any bodies of the 12 missing people. has been found.

Deep-sea divers, operating at a depth of 120 meters below the surface, wondered if the 19-ton “Kazu I” could be recovered from the seabed.

The tour boat disappeared on April 23 and 14 of the 26 people on board were confirmed dead.

The Coast Guard said on Thursday that a body believed to be one of the missing was found ashore on Kunashiri Island, an island under Russian administration and claimed by Japan.

Last week, the body of a woman found stranded on the island is also believed to be one of the missing.

Regarding the rescue of the boat, Japan’s Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito said in a press briefing on the matter that the rescue measures for the tour boat “are progressing steadily, although a final decision to raise it has not yet been taken”.

Searches for missing bodies are continuing by sea and air, with the search area extended overland to areas south of the peninsula, according to local reports.

The Kazu I was carrying 26 people when it disappeared off the Shiretoko Peninsula in Japan’s northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido, on April 23 after making a distress call that it was taking on water in a rough sea.

Contact with the boat was lost around 1:15 p.m. local time, according to official accounts.

The Coast Guard and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said the 24 passengers and two crew members were all wearing life jackets when the boat boarded.

Patrol boats and aircraft searched for the missing in the sea around the Shiretoko peninsula where the ship sank as well as in the area near Kunashiri Island.

The search around the disputed island was made possible as the Russian Coast Guard allowed Japanese ships to enter the area.

The agreement on the Russian side is in line with the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, a bilateral maritime accident agreement signed between Tokyo and Moscow.

The sunken tour boat was located on April 29 by sonar equipment, however, after initial searches of the vessel using underwater cameras, no additional bodies were found.

The Kazu I vessel ran into trouble when it collided with a floating object in May last year and injured three passengers.

In June, it ran aground in shallow water shortly after leaving port, the transport ministry said.

Noriyuki Toyoda, the 54-year-old captain, was referred to prosecutors for the second incident.

Coastguard officials plan to continue communicating with the Russian side to identify newly recovered bodies.

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