According to reports, nine of 26 passengers on a missing Japanese tour boat were found unconscious.
Four people were found near the tip Shiretoko Peninsula in northern Hokkaido earlier Sunday by rescuers. Five more were discovered in the same area just a few hours later.
The coastguard of the country could not confirm whether any of them were still alive.
NHK public TV said that they were not aware of the fact that average sea temperatures at Shiretoko National Park are just above freezing.
Because of the rocky coastline, this location is notorious for being difficult to maneuver boats. Last year, a tour boat was involved in an accident at the same spot.
A lifesaving float in square shape, orange colour and with the name of the boat on it was also visible on the rocky coastline.
After sending a distress signal on Saturday saying that the boat was taking on water and was sinking, it went missing with 24 passengers including two children and two crew members.
Crew members stated that life jackets were worn by all aboard and that the boat was keeling at an angle of 30 degrees.
After nearly 19 hours of intensive search, Sunday’s rescue was achieved after six patrol boats and several aircraft were used. Divers also participated in the search. According to the coastguard, the search went on into the night.
A local fisheries cooperative reported that strong winds and high waves were observed in the area at 12pm Saturday.
Local media reported that fishing boats returned to port after the storms because of bad weather.
NHK stated that waves of up to 3m (or nearly 10ft) were being warned.
Yoshihiko Yamada from Tokai University is a marine science professor. He said that the boat likely ran aground due to being thrown about by high waves. Then it was damaged and flooded before sinking.
According to the academic, there was also a possibility that the boat could have been struck by a whale.
According to the operator’s website, the tour lasts approximately three hours and includes a scenic view along the west coast of the peninsula with animals like whales, dolphins, and brown bears.