As many as 21 people, including 18 women and children, died after a boat carrying more than 100 people capsized in the Indus River in the Punjab province of Pakistan on Monday.

The search and rescue operation for another 30 missing people is still on, according to local media reports. So far, nearly 90 people have been rescued by the divers.

The victims were on their way to a wedding when the boat capsized in the district of Sadiqabad in Punjab province. All of them were part of one clan from Machka, a Union Council of Sadiqabad, which is approximately 65km from Rahim Yar Khan city in Punjab province.

"We have retrieved 20 bodies so far and most of them were women," local government official Aslam Tasleem told Pakistani news channel Geo News. "We're not sure how many people exactly were on the boat. We're getting the estimates just on the basis of the family members' accounts," he added.

Rahim Yar Khan Deputy Commissioner Syed Musa Raza said that the boat was overloaded and there could be more casualties.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also took to Twitter to express his condolences to the victims' families and has assured them of all kinds of assistance.

"I am saddened by the loss of 19 precious lives as a result of the boat capsizing accident in the Indus River... We pray to Allah Almighty to grant the deceased a place in his mercy and grant patience to the affected families," he tweeted.

This is not the first time that such a tragedy has struck Pakistan. Such accidents are common in the country, where people still use rickety wooden boats to go from one place to the other. Police officer Mohammad Hammad told AFP "Most of the drowned appear to be women" because "most of the men know how to swim."

Pakistan is a deeply patriarchal society where women do not have access to the same levels of learning. Not all women are taught life skills such as swimming or driving. In fact, some do not even have access to education. However, it is mandatory for most women to learn to cook, clean, and wash.

Indus river
The mighty Indus River. Image by Shahid nazir paracha, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons