At least 23 people were killed and several dozen more were missing on Sunday after a boat capsized in a river in Bangladesh, police said.

“We have recovered 23 bodies. Firefighters and divers are searching for more bodies,” local police official Shafiqul Islam told AFP.

The boat was packed with up to 50 Hindu pilgrims, police said.

They were travelling to a centuries-old temple when the vessel suddenly tipped over and sank in the middle of the Karotoa river near the town of Boda in northern Bangladesh.

Another police officer said up to 25 people were still missing. Local media said at least 10 people were rescued and sent to hospital.

Thousands of Hindus in Muslim-majority Bangladesh visit the Bodeshwari Temple every year.

Sunday marked the start of the Durga Puja, the biggest Hindu festival in Bangladesh and also eastern India — drawing large crowds at the temple.

Boat tragedies caused by poor maintenance and overcrowding are common in Bangladesh, a poor nation crisscrossed by rivers.

A ferry sank in Dhaka last year after a collision with another vessel, killing at least 32 people.

At least 78 people died in February 2015 when an overcrowded ship collided with a cargo vessel in a river west of the capital.

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