High-tech ship joins search for people still missing in Hokkaido boat tragedy

Courtesy of the 1st Regional Coast Guard Headquarters
A photo captured Sunday by an unmanned vehicle shows the sunken Kazu I sightseeing boat.

SHARI, Hokkaido — A search for missing people on the sunken Kazu I sightseeing vessel involving a private ship equipped with advanced underwater search equipment —including a sophisticated camera — began Sunday off the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido.

The tour boat went missing April 23 with 26 passengers and crew aboard. As of Monday morning, 12 people remained unaccounted for.

On Sunday, the 1st Regional Coast Guard Headquarters unveiled two new photos of the Kazu I captured at a depth of about 115 meters by the new equipment. The images clearly show the name of the boat on the left side of the skewed hull, as well as the open rear door that leads to the cabin.

The Japan Coast Guard commissioned the private firm, which operates a sophisticated underwater search system and specializes in saturation diving.

Initially, the company will capture high-resolution images of the Kazu I with unmanned equipment and carry out preliminary studies to prepare for a saturation diving search. Divers will be able to closely examine both the exterior and interior of the vessel if they can reach it, but weather conditions could make the task difficult.

Meanwhile, the JCG and the Hokkaido prefectural police are continuing their sea search for the 12 missing people. The last of the 14 bodies to be found so far was located on April 28.

Courtesy of the 1st Regional Coast Guard Headquarters
A work vessel commissioned by the Japan Coast Guard is seen in waters off Shari, Hokkaido, on Sunday.