Body Found on Ferry Ablaze off Hokkaido

Japan Coast Guard has found a body inside the ferry Sunflower Daisetsu, presumed to be the 44-year-old Kunihiko Orita, a navigation officer who went missing after the Ro/Pax ferry caught fire on Friday, July 31, off Hokkaido.

Orita was reportedly last heard via walkie-talkie at around 6 pm Friday. He was engaged in fighting the flames, saying in his final contact with the ferry’s captain that he was surrounded by ”horrible black smoke,” and that it was ”hard to see anything nearby.”

The coast guard had dispatched a six-member search and rescue team to look for Orita. A total of fifteen boats and five aircraft have been sent to aid the stricken vessel. They have been fighting the fire since Saturday morning, local time.

The Sunflower Daisetsu was carrying 71 passengers and 23 crew members at the time of the accident, which was reported at around 5:30 pm Friday, local time, when the ferry was some 50 km of the coast of the city of Tomakomai. The remaining passengers and crew were safely evacuated.

The Sunflower Daisetsu is operated by MOL Ferry Co., which said that there was a possibility that the fire started in the area where several refrigerated container trucks were parked, and their refrigeration units connected to the ship’s power source.

The ferry was en route from the port of Oarai to Tomakomai when the fire broke out.

World Maritime News Staff