Eight dead after S. Korean tanker capsizes off Japan

TOKYO: Eight people died after a South Korean-flagged tanker capsized off Japan on Wednesday, the coast guard said, reversing its earlier statements that they were rescued.

"They were confirmed dead at a hospital," a spokesman told AFP. One other person was in a non-life-threatening condition while two others remained missing.

The chemicals tanker had 11 people on board including two South Koreans, eight Indonesians and one Chinese, the coast guard said.

The tanker was carrying 980 tonnes of acrylic acid, but there was no information on whether that compound had leaked into the ocean, according to the coast guard.

Footage from Japanese broadcaster NHK showed the overturned red hull of the ship as well as a life raft, as a coast guard ship pounded through heavy waves and a helicopter flew overhead.

The crew notified the coast guard early on Wednesday that the vessel was tilting and requested help near the island of Mutsure, off Japan's southwestern coast, NHK said.

The Japan Coast Guard received the rescue call soon after 7:00 am (2200 GMT Tuesday) saying that the ship was "tilting, please help us", the spokesman said.

NHK named the vessel as the Keoyoung Sun, which specialist website said is a chemical and oil products tanker built in 1996, measuring 69 metres (226 feet) in length.

The ship's operator declined to comment.

Japan was being buffeted by strong winds on Wednesday with high waves and heavy snow forecast in the coming days especially along mountainous areas.

Gusts of up to 126 kilometres (78 miles) per hour were expected in several areas, NHK reported.

Earlier this month, a South Korean fishing boat carrying nine crew, including seven Indonesians, capsized off the country's southern coast, leaving six missing.

The vessel overturned in waters 68 kilometres (42 miles) south of an island in the coastal city of Tongyeong early Saturday morning, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol ordered relevant authorities to "do their best to save lives by mobilising all available personnel and equipment, including navy and fishing boats," his office said in a statement.

The boat that capsized had set sail from the country's southernmost island of Jeju on Thursday morning, and was engaged in fishing, Yonhap said.

The news agency said patrol boats, navy vessels, and aircraft have been deployed for the ongoing search efforts.--AFP

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