8 dead, including 6 Chinese nationals, after ship sinks near Japan

Eight people are dead, including six Chinese nationals, after a ship sank in waters off the coast of Japan, a Chinese diplomat and the Japanese coast guard 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 were also 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."

The Japanese coast guard later confirmed the toll given by Lu, adding that the other two dead crew members were from Myanmar. Nine more people remained missing, it said -- four from China and five from Myanmar.

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 on 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.