India boat capsize leaves 12 dead, 10 missing

New Delhi (AFP) –


Emergency workers recovered 12 bodies from a river and were searching for another 10 missing people on Wednesday after a ferry capsized in southern India, officials said.

The boat was carrying 44 people across the Godavari river in Andhra Pradesh state when strong winds flipped it over late Tuesday, prompting a massive rescue operation including navy helicopters and dozens of divers.

The bodies were found after a 16-hour search of the sunken boat around 60 feet (18 metres) underwater using sonar equipment.

The state's Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said 22 passengers swam to safety and efforts are on to find those still missing.

Naidu blamed the private boat operator for the tragedy, saying the ferry was packed with men, cement bags and motorbikes.

"Because of the strong gale, the boat could not withstand pressure and sunk," he told reporters at the site of accident in East Godavari district.

The victims included members of a wedding party and people from local tribal communities, who regularly use the boats to reach their villages across India's second largest river that flows from the west of the country to the east coast.

Freak dust and thunderstorms have battered India for weeks this month, killing hundreds across the country.

Eight people drowned after their boat capsized late Sunday during a storm in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

But boat accidents are also common in India for other reasons -- mainly overcrowding, poor maintenance and lax safety.

In September, 20 people were killed when a boat capsized on the Yamuna river in northern India.

Six people died in October after their boat sank in eastern Bihar state, just months after 25 people died in a similar accident in the river Ganges.