At least 12 people died and 21 others went missing when the boat sank that was carrying them down a river in Orissa, a state in eastern India, police said Monday.

The shipwreck occurred Sunday afternoon on the Mahanadila River, as the boat carrying more than 100 passengers on their way home from a picnic was sailing through the Hirakud reserve in the Sambalpur district.

"The vessel capsized because it was overcrowded," police spokesman Amitav Panda told NDTV.

About 90 people have been rescued up to now, the police spokesman said.

Rescue teams worked through the night to recover the bodies of the people who were missing.

Navigation accidents are frequent around India, not only at sea but in rivers and lagoons due to the fragile state of the vessels and the fact that far more passengers are often crowded on board than the permitted number.

In late January, 21 people died when their boat sank near the Nicobar and Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal.

In 2012, more than 100 people died when a ferry sailing on the Brahmaputra River in the northeastern state of Assam went down after a powerful storm broke it in half. EFE