HYDERABAD, India — Rescuers on Wednesday recovered four bodies from a river ferry which capsized in heavy winds in rural south India, leaving up to 40 people still missing and feared dead, an official said.
District administrator Karhikeya Mishra said the ferry was salvaged from a depth of 60 feet (18 meters) in the Godavari River in a joint operation by the navy and National Disaster Relief Force.
A large number of people, including relatives of those missing, stood on the sandy beach watching the rescue operation.
About 20 people swam to safety after the ferry capsized Tuesday evening, but an estimated 10-40 others, including a group traveling to a wedding, remain unaccounted for.
Fishermen raced to the scene to help, and officials deployed police and other rescuers. But the search for survivors was slowed by poor communications in the area and the fall of darkness.
On Wednesday, more than a dozen boats searched for bodies. The river is more than a kilometer (1/2 mile) wide in the area.
A navy helicopter joined the search operation, and heavy cranes were used to pull the ferry to the river bank.
Proper record-keeping is rare on the many ferries that work the Godavari, making it difficult to know how many people were on the boat.
Ferry disasters occur frequently in India, often because of overcrowding or poor maintenance. In November, a ferry capsized elsewhere in Andhra Pradesh state, leaving at least 19 people dead.
The exact cause of Tuesday’s accident was unclear. There were no reports of overcrowding and the ferry captain reported quickly to local police to give a statement.
By OMER FAROOQ, By Associated Press – published on STL.News by St. Louis Media, LLC (A.S)