But local residents said the number of victims who drowned in the disaster on Thursday could be in the hundreds.

Forty-five people are still listed as missing, an official said.

Police Inspector-General Anil Kumar said on Tuesday in the Dewas district that the number of dead had risen to 60 from 53 the previous day.

"The search is on for more bodies," he added.

Thousands of Hindu pilgrims were praying on the banks of the heavily dammed Narmada River in Dewas when the flash flood occurred after state-run National Hydel Development Corporation (NHDC) released water from the Indira Sagar reservoir.

Witnesses said at least 25,000 people had gathered on the banks of the river to offer prayers ahead of the new moon, a time considered auspicious by Hindus.

Hundreds missing

Locals said hundreds of people were still missing from the pilgrimage site, 300km from the state capital Bhopal. They said 128 people from Agar village, who went to pray, had not returned and 107 from Depalpur village could not be traced.

"The search is on for more bodies"

Anil Kumar,
police inspector-general

The state government has launched an investigation into the disaster, whose magnitude only became known on Monday after officials announced the recovery of more bodies.

Indira Sagar is the second biggest dam in the Narmada Valley, one of India's largest hydroelectric projects. The project has forced the relocation of many people, sparking massive controversy.

A senior NHDC official said on Monday that the company had released the water as part of a power generation plan. He blamed "lack of coordination" between local authorities and the NHDC for the disaster.
 
The government has promised legal action against officials believed to have acted negligently.