58 die after boat capsizes in C.Africa: rescuers

 Search and rescue efforts continue after the boat capsized in the Jhelum river near the Batwara area of Srinagar, India. [AFP]

At least 58 people going to a funeral died after their overloaded boat capsized in the Central African Republic's capital Bangui, the head of civil protection said on Saturday.

"We were able to extract 58 lifeless bodies. We don't know the total number of people who are underwater," Thomas Djimasse told Radio Guira.

According to witnesses and videos on social media, the boat was carrying more than 300 people -- some standing and others perched on wooden structures -- when it overturned on the Mpoko River on Friday.

The vessel was heading to the funeral of a village chief but capsized shortly after setting off, with rescuers arriving 40 minutes after the disaster.

Maurice Kapenya, who followed the boat in a canoe because there was no space on board, said he collected the bodies of some of the victims, including his sister, with the help of fishermen and residents.

Families were seen near the river on Saturday looking for their loved ones who were still missing.