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17 dead as boat capsizes and sinks in Missouri lake

Police said 31 people had been aboard the amphibious vessel and the incident was caused by heavy winds.

world Updated: Jul 20, 2018 22:39 IST
Agence France-Presse, Washington
Missouri,Missouri lake,Table Rock Lake
31 people had been aboard the amphibious "duck boat", which capsized and sank, at Table Rock Lake near Branson, Stone County, Missouri, US, on July 19, 2018.(SOUTHERN STONE COUNTY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT/Facebook/via REUTERS )

A tourist boat capsized and sank in a sudden storm on a lake in Missouri, leaving at least 17 people dead, as authorities search for three others still missing.

Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said 31 people had been aboard the amphibious vessel, known as a duck boat for its wheels that allow it to ride on land in addition to floating low on the water.

Divers were scouring the lake for survivors and bodies following the accident overnight on Table Rock Lake, officials said. Several of the dead were children.

Map of Missouri locating Table Rock Lake, where a tourist boat capsized on July 19. ( AFP )

Rader told journalists that some of the passengers managed to reach shore after the boat capsized and began to sink.

Seven people have been hospitalized, he said, and a local hospital said two were in critical condition.

Divers are in the water looking for people. ( REUTERS )

Rader said the incident was caused by heavy winds and the tour boat had been making its way to land when it capsized. Two duck boats had been on the water at the time, according to Rader, one of which returned safely.

The man-made lake where the boat sank is a popular tourist draw located in southern Missouri near the city of Branson, on the border with Arkansas.

Rick Kettels, who owns the Lakeside Resort on the shores of Table Rock Lake, said the storm appeared to come out of nowhere.

“It just came up real quick,” he told AFP, saying the severe weather struck around 6:15 pm local time. “I’ve been here most of my life and I never saw a storm this bad,” he said, adding that he had not seen a warning from local weather stations.

When the storm seemed imminent he had rushed to the lake to urge guests and boats to evacuate, as rough waves began slamming into his resort pier.

Steve Lindenberg, a meteorologist in Springfield, Missouri, some 72 kilometers north of Branson, told AFP a string of severe thunderstorms had barreled through the area causing significant tree damage and downed power lines.

Meteorologists clocked winds at 119 kilometers per hour and issued a warning to the area at approximately 6:30 pm.

Branson airport experienced a peak gust of 63 miles per hour, Lindenberg said.

“Our hearts are heavy tonight,” the City of Branson said in a statement. “This is a very trying time for all those who are involved.

“The City of Branson may be small in size but it is big at its heart.” President Donald Trump tweeted his condolences.

“My deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those involved in the terrible boat accident which just took place in Missouri. Such a tragedy, such a great loss. May God be with you all!” he said.

First Published: Jul 20, 2018 10:43 IST