At least 20 people have drowned and several more are missing after an "overloaded" boat capsized in India.

The boat, carrying roughly 40 people, capsized in the Ganges River in the northeastern city of Patna on Saturday (14 January). The incident took place as the boat returned from a Hindu religious festival.

Principal Secretary, Disaster Management department, Pratyay Amrit told Times Now: "So far 20 persons have been reported to be dead in the boat tragedy."

Police officer Chandan Kushwaha told AP 13 people have been rescued and sent to hospital. However, the search operation has been called off for the night due to darkness, officials said.

Sources suggested the boat carrying the pilgrims was overloaded when it capsized near NIT Ghat late in the evening.

The passengers were returning to Ranighat in Patna from Sabalpur diara across the river after watching a kite festival on occasion of 'Makar Sankranti'.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ordered a high-level probe into the mishap, reported the Times of India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also offered his condolences to the bereaved families.