Tokyo - One Chinese crew member was in a critical condition and eight others were missing after two cargo ships collided at the mouth of Tokyo Bay early on Tuesday, Japan's coastguard said.
The Panamanian-flagged Beagle III, a 12 630 ton vessel carrying steel coil, sank after colliding with the South Korean-registered Pegasus Prime in the Uraga waterway. The accident happened at about 03:10.
Of the 20 Chinese crewmen aboard the Beagle III, "twelve have been rescued, but one of them is in a state of cardio-respiratory arrest", said a coastguard official, adding that eight others were still missing.
Rescue personnel in Japan frequently use the term cardio-respiratory arrest before doctors officially pronounce death.
The Japanese coastguard had dispatched two helicopters and 19 patrol ships to search for the missing crew and rescuers were still searching nine hours after the accident, the official said.
The crew on the 7 406 ton Pegasus Prime, six South Koreans and eight people from Myanmar were mostly unhurt, but two Koreans sustained minor injuries when they tried to lower a lifeboat, the Japanese official said.
The sea was not believed to be rough at the time of the collision, according to the coastguard.