Rescue helicopters have found nine of the 26 people from a missing tour boat in the frigid waters of northern Japan.
But the Japanese Coast Guard could not confirm if any of the people were alive.
Rescuers intensified their search earlier on Sunday and found four people near the tip of Shiretoko Peninsula and five more people in the same area a few hours later. NHK public television said they were unconscious.
The coast guard said all nine people were found in the area near the tip of the peninsula north of where the boat sent a distress call on Saturday. The location is known as a difficult place to manoeuvre boats because of its rocky coastline. The same tour boat had an accident there last year.
Footage on NHK showed one of the rescued people arriving on a helicopter and being transferred to an ambulance on a stretcher, while rescuers held up blue plastic shields for privacy.
An orange-coloured, square-shaped lifesaving float with the boat’s name on it was also seen on the rocky coast.
The boat carrying 24 passengers, including two children, and two crew members had gone missing after sending a distress call, saying it took on water and was beginning to sink.
Sunday’s rescue came after nearly 19 hours of intense search involving six patrol boats, several aircraft and divers. The coast guard said the search continued through the night.
The 19-tonne Kazu 1 made an emergency call in the early afternoon of Saturday, saying the ship’s bow had flooded and it was beginning to sink and tilt while travelling off the western coast of Shiretoko Peninsula on the northern island of Hokkaido, the coast guard said.
A tour boat crew belonging to another operator told NHK that he warned of rough seas when he spotted the Kazu 1 crew and told them not to go. He said the same boat went aground last year and suffered a crack on its bow.