A floating pier capsized in waters off far-flung Okinotorishima, Japan’s southernmost island, throwing construction workers into the sea. Five were killed in the accident and two others remain missing, Japanese coast guard officials said.
Sixteen workers building the pier on the uninhabited toll, about 1,700 km south of Tokyo and 1,000 km southeast of Okinawa, when the accident occurred Saturday morning.
The 10-meter metal pier reportedly overturned while being unloaded from a barge, sending the workers into the sea. Nine were rescued while five weren’t as lucky.
Winds were not particularly strong at the time of the accident, according to the Japan Meteoroligical Agency.
The Japan Coast Guard sent two aircraft and two vessels to search for the remaining missing. But the vast distance between the atoll and the main islands would likely put off search for several days.
The coveted atoll, also known as Douglas Reef, is mostly underwater but is claimed by China, which says that the islands are just a collection of rocks and should not be included in Japan’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone. Only two of the so-called coral islets – Higashikojima and Kitakojima – can be seen during high tide.
In 1987, Japan started constructing concrete levies to prevent the island from eroding and being submerged by the sea.
By Maesie Bertumen
Main image: Flickr/vincentvds2