Child from missing Japanese boat confirmed dead; fatalities reach 11
Tokyo, April 25 (IANS) The death toll from a tourist boat that went missing over the weekend in Japan increased to 11 after a three-year-old girl was confirmed dead on Monday, the Coast Guard and local officials said.
The Coast Guard and the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), in charge of finding the rest of the missing people, have expanded the search area, which is being scoured by aircraft and vessels, reports Xinhua news agency.
The 19-tonne tour boat, Kazu One, was carrying 26 people when it went missing off the Shiretoko Peninsula in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido on April 23 after making a distress call saying it was taking on water in rough seas.
Contact with the boat was lost at around 1.15 p.m., according to local accounts.
Among those aboard the vessel, seven men and three women were confirmed dead the next day, and two children aboard the vessel were also pulled from the waters.
The three-year-old girl, the most recent of the victims, was found to be in an unresponsive state on Sunday night in waters about 14 km east of a lighthouse near the tip of Shiretoko Peninsula, a popular destination in the northeast of Hokkaido known for drift ice tours.
The child's body likely drifted along with the wind and the tide, officials in Shari, from where the boat departed, were quoted as saying.
The girl's parents remained missing.
The Coast Guard and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said 24 passengers and crew were all believed to be wearing life jackets when the boat embarked, although the girl was not wearing one when she was found, they said.
Nine of the 10 confirmed dead were found in the water or on nearby rocks around 10 km from where the boat issued its first rescue call.
The search area has since been expanded beyond there and local fishing vessels have also joined the search, according to local reports.
As it is likely that the boat may have sunk in the rough waters, searchers are using sonar equipment to try and locate the vessel.
The boat had a history of colliding with a floating object in May last year, when three passengers were injured.
Last June, the Transport Ministry said it ran aground in shallow waters shortly after leaving port.
Noriyuki Toyoda, the 54-year-old captain, was referred to prosecutors over the second incident.