Tour boat missing off Hokkaido reported engine failure before losing contact

The Japan Coast Guard said a missing tourist boat off the northern Hokkaido prefecture reported an engine failure before losing contact. A search is underway for the 26 people on board.

Coast Guard officers said the boat sent out a distress call on Saturday afternoon while touring the Shiretoko Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

They say 24 passengers, including two children, and two crew members were on board the ship.

The crew told officials the vessel was taking on water and listing at an angle of about 30 degrees and could not move on its own because its engine had shut down.

The Coast Guard sent six patrol vessels and four aircraft to search for the boat “KAZU I”. The Air Self-Defense Force also dispatched a search and rescue aircraft. But the boat has not yet been located.

The operating company says the boat left a port on the peninsula on Saturday morning for a three-hour excursion and was supposed to return to port.

Meteorological Agency officials said waves in the area were up to three meters high when the boat made the distress call.

The Coast Guard said the boat ran aground last June just after leaving the same port. None of the 23 people on board were injured and the ship was able to return to port.

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio says he has instructed his officials to do all they can to rescue the missing. And he sends the transportation minister to Hokkaido to lead the search and rescue mission.

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