At least 15 students and a teacher have died in India Thursday after a boat carrying more than two dozen passengers – which was only meant to hold just 16 – capsized in a lake, officials say.
The incident happened late afternoon at Harni Lake in Vadodara during a picnic event that was organized by a private school, according to The Indian Express.
“The incident of children drowning after the boat capsized in Vadodara’s Harni lake is extremely heartbreaking. I pray for the peace of the souls of the innocent children who lost their lives,” Bhupendra Patel, the chief minister of India’s Gujarat state, wrote on X.
Eleven students were rescued when the boat sank and rescuers were searching for a person who was still missing, Vadodara fire officer Jitu Parmar told The Associated Press. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
The AP reported that 15 students and one teacher died in the incident. A local hospital told The Indian Express that a boy and two girls, all 15 years old, were among the victims.
“The children had arrived at the lake at 4:30 p.m. and accompanied by their teachers, they boarded the boat in the lake zone,” local government official Sheetal Mistry said to the newspaper. “The children were wearing life jackets but the reports indicate that 24 persons were made to sit in one boat which otherwise has a capacity to carry just 16 passengers.”
A rescue operation was launched following the sinking of the boat, with some locals managing to rescue children before first responders could reach the site, according to India TV.