This handout photo taken and released on 25 January 2023 by the 7th Regional Coast Guard headquarters of the Japan Coast Guard shows Coast Guard personnel (centre L) checking on a lifeboat (centre R-in orange) from the Jin Tian cargo ship floating at sea, after the Hong Kong registered vessel sank between South Korea's southern island of Jeju and Japan's southwestern Nagasaki prefecture/Japan Coast Guard/AFP.

BEIJING, CHINA — Eight people are dead, including six Chinese nationals, after a ship sank in waters off the coast of Japan, a Chinese diplomat said Thursday.

The Jin Tian, carrying crew from China and Myanmar, sent a distress signal on Tuesday evening from a position around 110 kilometres (68 miles) west of the remote and uninhabited Danjo Islands in far southwestern Japan.

The ship’s captain used a satellite phone to tell the South Korean coast guard that he and the crew would abandon the sinking ship in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Jeju coast guard said.

Multiple vessels and aircraft from Japan’s coast guard and military have also been involved in the search, which retrieved 13 crew members.

Three private ships in the area also helped to pick up five of the stranded crew members, Japan’s coast guard said.

China’s Consul General in the city of Fukuoka, Lu Guijun, told state broadcaster CGTN Thursday that of the 13 people found, “eight have been confirmed dead, of whom six are Chinese”.

“Five of them — including four Chinese crew members — are not in life-threatening conditions,” he added.

“We express our deepest condolences to the unfortunate victims.”

Japanese authorities are yet to confirm the toll given by the Chinese diplomat, telling AFP Thursday they could only say that nine remain missing and, of the 13 retrieved, two are dead.

Officials from local Chinese missions visited the Nagasaki coast guard, the Fukuoka consulate said, where they laid flowers for the dead crew members and expressed their condolences.

They also visited survivors, conveying a message from China’s ambassador to Japan, Kong Xuanyou, while providing clothing, food and drinks, the consulate said.

The accident came as a cold snap hit much of Asia, with daytime temperatures in some Japanese islands nearest the rescue site reaching just three degrees Celsius (37 degrees Fahrenheit).

The 6,651-tonne Jin Tian is registered in Hong Kong, Japan’s coast guard said.

In 2020, a cargo ship with 43 crew and 6,000 cattle on board sank off southwestern Japan after being caught in a typhoon. Two crew survived.


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