97 injured after Japanese ferry

Japan's coast guard Monday searched for a giant whale that they suspect collided with a passenger ferry,injuring 97 people, or any other clues about the cause of the accident.

Three patrol vessels and a helicopter were deployed to investigate Sunday's accident, in which the high-speed ferry is believed to have hit a whale or another large sea animal near Kagoshima Bay, according to Coast Guard official Hidehiro Yamada.

Ninety-seven people were hurt, including 43 hospitalized, up from original reports of 49 injuries, according to ferry operator Kagoshima Shosen.

The Coast Guard received a distress call from the boat shortly after the collision. The vessel was damaged but wasn't in danger of sinking.

The ferry was on its way to Kagoshima from Tanegashima island off Kyushu, Japan's southernmost main island.

Whales are common in the area.

At least four similar collisions between high-speed ferries and marine animals were reported near Tsushima Island north of Kyushu earlier this year, Kyodo said. About 10 passengers sustained minor injuries in an incident in March, according to local authorities, it reported.

Kagoshima is 985 kilometers (616 miles) southwest of Tokyo, reports the AP.

I.L.