A tour boat with 26 people aboard, including two children, has been missing off northern Japan for several hours with no sign of survivors, the country’s coastguard said.
The 19-tonne Kazu 1 made an emergency distress call on Saturday afternoon, saying the bow of the vessel had been flooded and was beginning to sink and tilt.
The crew also said those on board were wearing life jackets and the boat was keeling at a 30-degree angle.
It was travelling off the western coast of Shiretoko Peninsula, in the northern island of Hokkaido.
There has been no contact from the boat since.
The vessel was carrying 24 passengers, two of whom were children, and there were also two crew members.
Six patrol boats, four aircraft and divers have been sent to the area to search for any survivors.
High waves and strong winds were seen in the area around 12pm, a local fisheries cooperative said.
Local media said fishing boats had returned to port before noon because of the bad weather.
Public broadcaster NHK said there was a warning for waves up to three metres (nearly 10ft) high.
Yoshihiko Yamada, a marine science professor at Tokai University, said the boat was likely to have run aground after it was thrown around by the high waves, then damaged and flooded, before probably sinking.
The academic also said there was a small chance the boat might have been hit by a whale.
The operator’s website said the tour takes about three hours and offers a scenic view of the western coast of the peninsula, including animals such as whales, dolphins and brown bears.
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