whale boat
A whale-watching boat carrying 27 passengers has sunk off the coast of British Columbia, killing at least five Facebook/Albert Titian

At least five people are confirmed dead with one still missing after a whale-watching boat carrying 27 people sank on the west coast of Canada. The 20m Leviathan II sank off the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Emergency services said 21 people have been rescued and taken to hospital.

Valerie Wilson, of the Vancouver Island Health Authority, told Associated Press: "Their looks tell the whole story. You can't describe looks on people that are lost. They look totally lost – shocked and lost.''

The nationalities of those on board the vessel are not yet known, but the UK's Foreign Office said it is "urgently" checking with Canadian authorities to check if any Britons were involved.

A spokesperson said: "Following the incident in Tofino on 25 October, we are urgently seeking information from the local authorities and stand ready to provide consular support to any British nationals involved.

Jamie's Whaling Station and Adventure Centres, who operate in Tofino, a popular destination for whale-watching, confirmed the Leviathan II was operated by them.

A spokesperson said: "It has been a tragic day. Our entire team is heartbroken over this incident and our hearts go out to the families, friends and loved ones of everyone involved. We are doing everything we can to assist our passengers and staff through this difficult time. We are co-operating with investigators to determine exactly what happened.

"In the meantime, we want to extend our most sincere thank you to the first responders, rescue personnel, and everyone from Tofino and the local First Nations communities who assisted with the response efforts."

In 1998, a boat operated by the same company sank near Tofino, killing the ship's captain and a German tourist.

An investigation is under way to determine how the boat sank. John Forde, who works at a separate eco-adventure company, told Global Television: "The sea was three to four metres, a fairly big sea, but not much wind or too unusual for the conditions we deal with on a regular basis out here."