China dragon boats accident: 17 people die after rowboats capsize in strong current

Chiara Giordano

Seventeen people have been killed after two dragon boats capsized in southern China.

One of the long, narrow boats packed full with paddlers capsized while going over a stretch of river near the city of Guilin on Saturday, where the current appeared to be strong.

A total of 60 people fell into the water after another dragon boat arrived at the scene and also capsized.

It was not immediately clear what caused the boats to capsize - but the accident happened where two flows of the river converge causing a powerful current.

Most of those who went into the river were not wearing life jackets, local media reported.

The boats had been practising for a race in the Taohua River when the accident happened.

The fire department said on its official account on the social media site Sina Weibo that search efforts ended late on Saturday and 17 people had been confirmed dead.

Rescuers search for missing boaters into the night after two dragon boats capsized in southern China, killing seventeen people (Chinatopix via AP)

Eight boats and more than 200 people rushed to help in the rescue effort, which went on late into the night.

Two organisers of the practice session, from the village of Dunmu, are believed to have been detained.

Two dragon boats that capsized, killing seventeen people, sit in the water on the Taohua River in Guilin in southern China (Chinatopix via AP)

China has sought to step up safety surrounding nationwide dragon boat racing during the Duanwu festival, which falls near the summer solstice and commemorates the death of the poet and minister Qu Yuan in the third century BC.

Drag boat racing is popular in various parts of Asia and the Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional holiday in China, this year on 18 June.

Additional reporting by agencies