An overloaded ferry carrying more than 300 people capsized during severe weather in eastern India on Monday afternoon, killing at least 105 people and leaving nearly 100 others missing, officials said. The death toll is expected to rise.
The accident happened at around 4:15 p.m. local time when the double-decker ferry capsized on the Brahmaputra river near Fakiragram in Dhubri district of Assam state. The boat was carrying an estimated 350 people, although the figure could change as a passenger list was not available.
The old vessel, which carried no lifeboats or life jackets, was overloaded with mainly local farmers, their families, sacks of rice, and other goods when it tipped over and broke in two. It was not immediately clear how many people the vessel was designed to carry, but Indian media reports said some people were forced to sit on the roof of the ferry.
"Right now we have recovered 105 bodies from the water," a district official said, adding that at least 95 others are believed to be missing and feared to have drowned. About 150 people were rescued or were able to swim to safety following the accident, which is India's deadliest in years.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who represents Assam in the upper house of parliament, spoke with the state's chief minister to convey his condolences and express solidarity with the people. "The Prime Minister is shocked and grieved to know about the loss of lives," a spokesperson said. "He has conveyed his deepest condolences to the near and dear ones of those who lost their lives."
Police, the Indian Army, the Border Security Force's water wing and the National Disaster Force were participating in the search-and-rescue operation on late Monday evening. But the rescue effort is being hampered by torrential pre-monsoon rains and near zero visibility, police said.