Two women drowned and many other villagers were feared washed away when an overcrowded country boat capsized in Oppanaru River in the district early Saturday morning.

Police said eight persons were rescued by locals and hospitalised, while 16 others — 10 women and six children — swam to safety.

Fire service personnel have launched a search for the missing persons. It was not clear as to how many persons were on the boat when it capsized.

The villagers, hailing from Sangilikuppam in the district, were returning home after participating in a temple festival at coastal Nochikuppam on Friday night when the mishap occurred, they said.