Teams of the State and the National Disaster Response Forces and naval divers from Visakhapatnam are searching for the remaining seven who jumped into the waters.

Most of those on the boat were school and college students returning to their villages.

The children had participated in a drive to plant saplings on their school premises at Pasuvula Lanka . All the students were residents of Saladivaripalem and Serilanka island villages, with boats being the only mode of transport to school. A bridge to the mainland has been under construction for the last six years.

Though it was a pubic holiday for schools the students were asked to take part in the Vana Mahotsavam launched by the State government.

Officials in the Real-Time Governance Centre at the Secretariat said six schoolchildren — Kondepudi Ramya, Polisetti Veera Maneesh, Polisetti Anusha, Sirikoti Priya, Polisetti Suchitra and Sunkara Sreeja — are believed to have drowned. The government departments concerned had been alerted to be on the lookout for the missing people.

Some students in the boat climbed the base of the under-construction pier and saved themselves. Fishermen and local villagers besides bridge construction workers rescued about 20 people.

According to a release from the Chief Ministers Office, rescue operation is underway under the supervision of East Godavari district Collector Kartikeya Misra and Superintendent of Police Vishal Gunni.

It was on July 14 three years ago that nearly 30 people died in a stampede on the banks of the river in Rajahmundry town on the first day of the pushkaram.

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