Death toll rises to 24 after India Ganges boat capsize

BHUBANESWAR, India (Reuters) - Five more bodies have been recovered from the Ganges river after an overloaded boat capsized near the capital of eastern India’s Bihar state, taking the death toll to 24, officials said on Sunday as rescuers ended search operations.

The accident happened on Saturday evening as people were ferrying back after watching kite-flying celebrations to mark a harvest festival.

The boat was carrying as many as 50 people, more than its capacity of 30, and it capsized not far from the shore in the state capital Patna, Bihar state’s disaster management minister Chandrashekhar told Reuters on Saturday.

Nineteen bodies were found on Saturday.

Manu Maharaj, a senior police official from the state, said on Sunday rescuers had ended search operations after recovering the five additional bodies.

“Operations have been closed because there is no more missing complaint,” Maharaj said, estimating the total number of people on the boat when it capsized at about 40.

“But we are on alert,” he said.

Police have registered a case against the boat operator, Maharaj said.

The disaster management minister had said on Saturday 10 to 12 people managed to swim to safety. Eight people were hospitalized after being rescued.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the loss of lives and announced "ex-gratia" of 200,000 rupees ($2,934) for the families of the deceased, according to his official Twitter account.

($1 = 68.1600 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Jatindra Dash; Writing by Aditya Kalra and Devidutta Tripathy; Editing by Tom Lasseter