22 people were feared drowned when a “heavily overloaded” double-decker boat on an excursion in Kerala’s Malappuram Sunday evening.

The boat was plying beyond the official deadline of 5pm when it sank around 7pm. Lack of light was hampering rescue efforts, officials said, hinting the toll could rise. Though the exact number of riders is not clear, sources said the boat had “30 to 40” people.

PM Narendra Modi has expressed deep shock at the tragedy and announced an ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh to the families of the deceased.

According to sources, since it was a Sunday during the summer holidays, many of the passengers were children. At least three women and four children were reportedly among the dead.

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