Island tour

Japan continues search near disputed island for missing people from sunken tour boat

Japan’s Coast Guard continued its search at sea around a Russian-held, Japanese-claimed island off Hokkaido on Friday, two weeks after a tour boat sank that left 14 people dead and 12 missing.

A patrol boat searched the area near Kunashiri Island, one of four islands claimed by the two countries, after Moscow allowed the boat to operate under a bilateral maritime accident agreement.

Meanwhile, other boats and planes searched the Shiretoko Peninsula near where the sunken tour boat was found on April 29.

The Kazu I, operated by Shiretoko Yuransen, was carrying 24 passengers and two crew members when it went missing on April 23 after leaving Shari Port, Hokkaido, for a cruise along the peninsula despite a bad weather warning .

No bodies have been found since April 28. Local fishermen ended their search assistance on Thursday.

Police searched the interior of the 19-ton boat, which is currently at a depth of 120 meters off the peninsula, using a camera-equipped device, but there were no sign of one of the missing persons.

The search around Kunashiri Island came after the Russian Coast Guard agreed to allow Japanese vessels to enter the area under the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue. A territorial dispute over who owns it and three other islands prevented the two nations from signing a peace treaty after World War II.

According to the Japanese Coast Guard, the Russian Coast Guard told the Japanese side that they spotted someone in a life jacket drifting at sea on April 27 but were unable to carry out a rescue in due to turbulent weather conditions.

The peninsula northeast of Hokkaido was designated a World Natural Heritage Site in 2005. It is known as a popular destination for viewing drifting ice as well as unique plant life and many rare species of animals such as bears brown.

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