Search continues in northern Japan for 12 missing after tour boat sinking

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TOKYO, May 6 (Xinhua) -- The Japan Coast Guard and Self-Defense Forces continued searching for those unaccounted for in a tour boat sinking accident two weeks ago, local media reported Friday.

The 19-ton tour boat, Kazu I, was carrying 26 people including its crew when it went missing off the Shiretoko Peninsula in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido on April 23 after making a distress call saying it was taking on water in rough seas, leaving 14 dead and 12 missing.

The tour boat departed from a port in Shari, Hokkaido, despite a bad weather warning being issued.

Patrol boats and aircraft are currently searching for the missing in the sea around the Shiretoko Peninsula where the vessel sank as well as the area near Kunashiri Island, one of the southern Kuril Islands disputed by Tokyo and Moscow, according to local sources.

The Russian coast guard has agreed to allow Japanese vessels into the area in line with the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, a bilateral accord on maritime accidents inked between the two countries.

The sunken tour boat was located on April 29 by sonar equipment. Following searches of the vessel using underwater cameras on Tuesday, no more bodies were found since three were discovered on April 28.

A salvage company has been requested to investigate the accident site, at the request of the coast guard, Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported Friday.

The Kazu I had a history of issues with the vessel colliding with a floating object in May last year resulting in three passengers getting injured.

And in June, it ran aground in shallow waters shortly after leaving port, the transport ministry here said.

Noriyuki Toyoda, the 54-year-old captain, was referred to prosecutors over the second incident. Enditem

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