The death toll from an overloaded boat that sank in the Ganges in northern India rose to 55 on Tuesday, with more bodies plucked from the fast-flowing river by police divers.
"Eight dead bodies were recovered Tuesday morning after we resumed rescue operations that were suspended last night," district magistrate Senthil Pendiyan stated from the accident area.
Pendiyan said the number of people on board the vessel was higher than the 60 initially estimated, with "not less than" 70 packed on the boat, which had a capacity for 25-30.
The accident occurred on Monday in Ballia district, 250 miles (400 kilometres) southeast of Lucknow, after families hired the boat to perform a religious ceremony on the river, which is sacred to Hindus.
"Preliminary inquiries indicated that the boat sank essentially due to overloading," Pendiyan said, adding that more bodies might still be pulled from the water.
He quoted one of 17 survivors, Ram Sumer, as saying that the boatman jumped overboard as soon as he lost control of the vessel and then fled the scene.
"The cops are trying to track him down and initiate necessary action," he added.