Three girls drowned and five were missing after a private boat with 40 students, who were on a school picnic, capsized this morning off the coast of Dahanu in Palghar district of Maharashtra.

The police said that 32 students had been rescued and a search for the missing ones was continuing with Coast Guard personnel and local fishermen out at sea.

The bodies of the three girls -- Sonal Bhagwan Surati, Janhavi Harish Surati and Sanskruti Mayavanshi -- all aged 17, were recovered, Superintendent of Police, Palghar, Manjunath Singe told PTI.

All three were residents of Masauli in Dahanu’s Ambedkar Nagar area.

The private boat was carrying 40 students of Ponda School and Junior College in Parnaka in Dahanu and capsized around 11.30 am, Singe said.

The students were on a picnic.

“The Coast Guard has deployed its ships and aircraft in the rescue operation and personnel from several departments like the coastal police are involved in the search operations,” the SP said.

The location is around 20 miles off the Dahanu coast, a spokesperson of the Coast Guard said. Dahanu is located around 130 km from Mumbai.

Among the rescued, three students and the boat driver were admitted to a hospital, the police said.

The tragedy apparently struck when some students crowded on one side of the boat to click selfies, resulting in the vessel tilting on one side and capsizing, BJP MLA Manisha Chowdhary, who hails from Dahanu, told PTI.

Local fishermen, who saw the mishap, and some residents of Dahanu joined in rescue efforts.

Late in the evening, Singe told reporters that the police were probing the accident. An offence would be registered against those responsible for the tragedy, the SP said.

President Ram Nath Kovind, who arrived in Mumbai today on a two-day visit to Maharashtra, has offered his condolences to the families of those killed in the tragedy.

“Anguished to hear of boat carrying school children capsizing in Dahanu, Maharashtra. State government has rescued most of the passengers and is making efforts to trace those still missing. My condolences to bereaved families,” he tweeted.

The Coast Guard gave details about its rescue operation in a release here.

“On receiving the information, the Coast Guard Station at Dahanu immediately initiated search and rescue efforts whilst co-ordinating with local authorities. A Coast Guard boat based at Dahanu and a helicopter from Daman was launched immediately for rescue,” it said.

“A total of 32 precious lives were saved in the incident and they are being provided medical attention by the local authorities,” the release said.

However, there have been three casualties in the incident, it said.

“Search efforts are still continuing at the location in coordination with local authorities to search for missing students, if any,” the release said.