The Kazu 1 was sailing in cold and rough waters not far from the island of Hokkaido (northern Japan) when it sent out a distress call around 1:15 p.m. local time, according to the Japanese public television channel.NHK.
Contact was subsequently lost with the boat, and help did not arrive in the area until several hours later.
A coastguard official confirmed this Saturday to theAFP that a rescue operation was being carried out, but without giving further details.
The boat and its occupants – 24 passengers including two children, as well as two crew members according to media reports – had still not been located as of 9.30pm Japanese time, and the search was continuing despite the darkness.
The crew and passengers were provided with life jackets according to theNHKbut temperatures are currently very cold at night in the region: around 0°C.
In addition, fishing boats in the area had returned to port before Saturday noon due to high waves and strong winds, according to a local fishing cooperative quoted by the Japanese news agency Kyodo.
The Kazu 1 was sailing near the Shiretoko Peninsula, a remote natural site in northeast Hokkaido, listed since 2005 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.UNESCO for its remarkable terrestrial and marine ecosystems.