Monday, September 16, 2019 4:25 AM EST
By OMER FAROOQ, AP
HYDERABAD, India (AP) — Indian navy divers on Monday joined a massive search for 35 Indian tourists missing after a double-decker sightseeing boat capsized in a flooded river in southern India, drowning at least 12 people.
Andhra Pradesh state Home Minister M. Sucharitha said authorities closed the sluice gates of a river barrage to prevent those missing from being swept into the Bay of Bengal. Twenty-six people were rescued after the accident on Sunday.
About 300 rescuers from the state police and the National Disaster Relief Force resumed the search operation Monday morning after an overnight halt.
The accident occurred near Kachuluru village in East Godavari district, 380 kilometers (236 miles) east of the state's capital, Hyderabad. The boat was heading from Singanapalli to Papikondalu, a famous tourist spot.
The Papikondalu mountain range runs along the Godavari river and is popular for its scenic beauty.
"We 14 friends came from Warangal to see the beautiful Papikondalu and now only five are left," said one of the survivors, 54-year-old Gorre Prabhakar.
Twelve of 13 members of an extended family from the city of Vishakhapatnam were missing after the accident, police said.
Authorities are investigating the cause of the accident.
Sucharita said tour boats had been barred from operating on the route following the recent flooding of the river and it was not clear how the boat that capsized had managed to take out the tourists.
State officials said the boat sank at a depth of about 75 meters (250 feet), making search and recovery efforts difficult.