A tourist boat has capsized off the coast of India's remote Andaman and Nicobar islands, leaving 21 people dead, an official and reports have said.
The private boat was carrying 43 tourists, believed to be Indians, when it sank between the popular spots of Ross Island and North Bay near Port Blair, the capital of the islands, the Indian government and a local official said.
About 13 people were pulled from the water following the accident late on Sunday afternoon, and were taken to a hospital in Port Blair, with "several of them seriously injured", an official there said.
"The bodies have also been taken to the same hospital," the unnamed official in the control room set up after the accident told AFP by phone.
Rescue operations were under way with fears for at least another nine people still missing who may be trapped in the now submerged vessel, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.
The Aqua Marine was carrying a large group of tourists from Kanchipuram in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu, the Port Blair official said.
Investigation under way
Initial reports said the ferry developed a crack in the hull and sank, according to police official Shahji, who uses one name.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed shock over the tragedy and "condoled the loss of lives," in a statement, without confirming the number of people killed.
The prime minister said he had asked India's national agencies to help in the rescue and relief operation.
A list of the dead and injured was expected to be released soon with relatives urged to contact the control room for information.
The accident occurred about 25km off the coast of Port Blair, according to the Hindustan Times newspaper.
An investigation by the judicial district magistrate was under way into the cause of the accident, the official said.
The Andaman and Nicobar islands, comprising of about 572 islands, are located between the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal.