Japan rescuers find body on burning ferry

This handout picture taken and released by the Japanese Coast Guard on August 1, 2015 shows a coast guard vessel (R) spraying water over the Mitsui O.S.K. Lines's ferry "Sunflower Daisetsu" which caught fire on July 31 off the coast of Tomakomai, Northern island of Hokkaido. Dozens of passengers were evacuated from a ferry off the coast of northern Japan on July 31 after a fire broke out, but one crew member was missing, officials and local media said. (AFP)

Japanese rescuers said Monday they had found the body of a missing crew member on a ferry that caught fire last week, prompting the evacuation of dozens of passengers.

Kunihiko Orita, a 44-year-old second officer, disappeared as he battled the blaze on the Sunflower Daisetsu off the coast of northern Japan on Friday.

Rescuers said they discovered a body near the origin of the fire but had yet to formally identify the victim.

Orita's family later confirmed that the body was his, a coastguard spokesman said.

The blaze, which may have started on a truck aboard the passenger ferry, had still not been extinguished by Monday afternoon.

A distress call was made Friday evening as the vessel sailed 55 kilometres (34 miles) off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island.

A total of 94 people were aboard -- 71 passengers and 23 crew members -- when the blaze broke out on the vessel, according to ship owner MOL Ferry.

Passengers and other crew were safely evacuated on lifeboats and then transferred to other vessels.

The ferry -- which was carrying more than 100 vehicles -- had left from a port northeast of Tokyo earlier Friday bound for the city of Tomakomai, a trip of several hundred kilometres.


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