Thirteen Washed to Sea as Freighter Runs Aground off Japan

Thirteen people were washed to sea after a freighter caught fire and ran aground in stormy weather off east Japan on Friday, officials said.

Of the 13, one was found washed ashore and died in a hospital, according to Kyodo News agency. Four more were rescued, Kyodo said, but their condition wasn't known.

The 13 were washed to sea after the Panamanian-registered Giant Step caught fire and ran aground about 1.1 miles off Kashima port in east Japan, according to Coast Guard official Shu Sasaki.

The freighter had split in half with 13 of its 26 crew members still on board, Kyodo said. Sasaki couldn't immediately confirm.

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Rescue boats couldn't get near the ship, but rescuers were in touch with the crew members left on the ship and were searching the coastline for the missing, Sasaki said.

The fire broke out in the cabin area of the 98,587-ton freighter earlier Thursday while it was heading to Kashima from Australia, according to the Coast Guard. Officials didn't know what caused the fire.

The ship had initially reported that none of its 26 crew members — 25 Indians and one Sri Lankan — was injured.

Kashima is 59 miles east of Tokyo.