The engine of the boat, carrying the passengers from Chaygaon to Champupara to attend a boat race, failed to function in the middle of the river and hit against the post of a bridge, Kamrup (Rural) Deputy Commissioner Vinod Kumar Seshan said.

The boat overturned with the passengers falling into the river, which was in spate, he said. The local residents have begun rescue operations and NDRF and SDRF personnel have rushed to the spot.

Seshan, however, said many may have swam to safety to the other bank of the rive, but reports were yet to come in. He further said the exact number of passengers travelling in the boat was yet to be ascertained and the local people have only said it was overcrowded.

Senior police and civil officials have rushed to the spot and the hospital authorities nearby have been alerted.

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