Transportation

Overcrowded boat sinks in eastern India; 18 killed

  • Rescuers of India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) search in the river where an overcrowded country boat capsized.

    Rescuers of India‚Äôs National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) search in the river where an overcrowded country boat capsized.  (AP Photo/ Bikas Das)

  • Villagers gather on the banks to watch rescuers.

    Villagers gather on the banks to watch rescuers.  (AP Photo/ Bikas Das)

  • A diver prepares to search in the river.

    A diver prepares to search in the river.  (AP Photo/ Bikas Das)

Rescuers have recovered 18 bodies from a river in eastern India's West Bengal state where an overcrowded boat sank following a village fair over the weekend, an official said Monday.

The vessel overturned Saturday night as the villagers were returning to their homes across the river despite the crew's warning that the boat was overcrowded, said District Magistrate Saumitra Mohan.

The rescue work was completed Monday, with dozens of people rescued and 18 bodies recovered in Burdwan district, about 105 kilometers (65 miles) north of Kolkata, the state capital, Mohan said.

He said the boat became unstable and sank at a depth of 28 meters (70 feet) amid a strong current.

The accident triggered protests in the area, with dozens of angry villagers torching several boats on Sunday. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to quell the protesters, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

Accidents are common in India as many ferries are poorly built and often overcrowded, with little regard for safety regulations.