12 killed during Brazil river procession for Virgin Mary

BRAZIL - Twelve people were killed Saturday when their boat sank in northern Brazil during a traditional procession on a river in honour of the Virgin Mary, relief workers said.

Six other people were still missing from the ship that was carrying 100 participants even though it had a capacity limit of 40, firefighters said.

Firefighters had accompanied the procession but the accident took place as the boats were returning to their ports, a spokesman said.

"The boat was participating in the procession, which takes about two hours in the Amazonian state of Amapa, and must have capsized after hitting a sandbar upon its return," firefighter commander Miguel Rosario told AFP.

Officials said the rescue operation would continue into the early hours Sunday.

The traditional procession on the river takes place each year between the town of Santana and the state capital Macapa, with boats of all sizes.

Brazil's most famous procession, the Cirio de Nazare, occurs in the Amazonian city of Bethlehem, with about two million participants.