A Japanese hydrofoil ship which was en route to Sado Island from the port of Niigata has reportedly hit "marine life," most likely a whale. Of the 121 passengers on board, at least 80 people were injured during the collision.
According to BBC News, ferry operators have reported a 15cm (6in) crack in its stern of the ship after it hit an object. A statement released reveals that the ferry hit "marine life" during the journey which caused the damage. In addition, part of the hydrofoil wing was bent during the collision.
While it has not been definitively confirmed that the Japanese ferry hit a whale, according to NHK, who spoke to the vice director of the municipal aquarium in Joetsu City, Niigata Prefecture, Shinichiro Ikeguchi, it is believed that the level of impact damage indicates the ferry likely hit a whale.
In addition, Shinichiro Ikeguchi, who is considered a marine expert, also stated that mink and humpback whales are known to traverse the area in which the ferry was traveling prior to the accident. Currently, these varieties of whales are migrating through the Sea of Japan.
The Japanese ferry is propelled by a high-pressure jet of seawater and can travel at speeds of up to 80 kph (approximately 49.7 mph).There were 121 passengers and four crew members on board during the ferry trip. Of those, at least 80 were injured -- some seriously so.
"My throat hit the seat in front of me," one passenger revealed. "People around me were moaning [in pain]."
According to Coast Guards, of those hurt, 13 were seriously injured and were taken to the hospital. NHK reports that all of those who were seriously injured were conscious prior to being treated.
According to The Japan Times, the accident occurred at approximately 12.15 p.m., local time, on Saturday, after leaving Niigata Port at 11:30 a.m. It is reported that crew members do instruct passengers to wear seat belts prior to each departure. It is also recommended by the crew that seat belts are worn while the ship is sailing. It is currently unclear how many passengers were wearing seat belts at the time of impact.
Even with the damage, it was reported by the ferry operator, Sado Steam Ship Co., that the Japanese ferry eventually made its way safely to its destination located off the west coast of Japan's main island of Honshu at approximately 1:30 p.m., according to The Independent. However, the vessel was at least an hour late.
Currently, the incident is still under investigation.