3rd LD Writethru: At least 18 dead as boat capsizes in eastern India

NEW DELHI-- At least 18 people died after an overcrowded boat capsized in the river Ganga in India's eastern state of Bihar on Saturday, officials said.

"So far 18 bodies have been retrieved from the river," Ravi Kant, a senior official at India's National Disaster Response Force in Bihar, told Xinhua.

"The rescue work is going on and our teams are carrying out searches in water for the missing ones," he said.

Officials said the death toll is likely to increase in the mishap.

Some nine people have been rescued alive and brought to hospital, said health officials in Patna, capital city of Bihar.

Initial reports said the boat was carrying 40 people, much more than its carrying capacity.

According to the locals, the boat was returning from a kite flying festival that was organized on an island in the middle of the river as part of Makar Sankranti, a festival celebration that marks the end of winter solstice.

Following the mishap, the local people jumped into the river to carry rescue work and brought some people to the river bank.

Rescue teams of disaster management were carrying out the searches until late Saturday.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed grief over the deaths in the boat accident and extended condolences to bereaved families.

Bihar's Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was shocked by the casualties and has ordered a high-level probe into the mishap.

He also announced compensations for families of the victims in the tragedy.

Boat accidents are common in India, mainly because of overcrowding and a lack of life jackets on ferries.

In May 2016, 18 people were killed after a boat capsized in the river Bhagirathi in the neighbouring state of West Bengal.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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