Three killed after boats collide off Hokkaido

Three Japanese fishermen have died following a collision between their fishing boat and a Russian vessel off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost prefecture.

The 9.7-ton Japanese boat, Daihachi Hokkoumaru, collided with the 662-ton Russian ship, AMUR, in the Sea of Okhotsk. The incident occurred about 23 kilometers northeast of Mombetsu Port on Wednesday at around 6 a.m., local time. The fishing boat capsized.

Japan's Coast Guard says the five crew members of the fishing boat were rescued by the crew of the AMUR. But three of them had no vital signs when they were returned to Mombetsu Port, and they were pronounced dead later.

The Daihachi Hokkoumaru's 64-year-old chief engineer and two deckhands aged 37 and 39 died.

Another deckhand suffered minor injuries. The captain was not injured.

Survivors, who were aboard the fishing boat, are said to have told a local fisheries cooperative official that they were fishing for crabs in the sea, when the Russian vessel hit the side of their boat.

According to the AMUR's agent, the ship left the far eastern Russian province of Sakhalin on Tuesday. It was transporting crabs to Mombetsu.

Japan's Coast Guard is interviewing the crew of both vessels to find out what caused the collision. The sea was reportedly calm at the time of the accident.

A Russian border guard in Sakhalin told NHK that the AMUR sailed the route regularly. But the official said the vessels apparently collided because of low visibility due to fog. The official said the 23 crew members on board the AMUR were not injured.