Eight primary school children have drowned in China after one fell in a river and the others tried to save them.
Their bodies were retrieved from the Fu River near Chongqing in Sichuan province, southwest China, state news agency Xinhua reported.
One of the children fell in the river as they played without supervision next to the river, near a dam in the village of Tongjia at around 3.30pm on Sunday.
The other seven, who were all pupils at the Mixin Town Primary School, tried to save the child but they all also fell in, according to a government report.
A rescue team of more than 200 was sent to the river and video showed rescuers searching the riverbanks and preparing rafts through the night as villagers watched.
Locals told the Chutian Metro Daily the part of the river where the pupils fell was about 50 metres (164 feet) wide.
Most of the pupils were girls and several bodies were retrieved by Sunday night, while the rest were found early on Monday morning.
Local authorities said they have started an investigation and the children’s families have been informed.
The deaths have reignited a discussion about children being taught to swim in China, where drowning is the leading cause of death for youngsters under the age of 14 – according to the World Health Organisation.
The Chinese Health Ministry estimates that around 57,000 people of all ages drown each year in the country.
State broadcaster CCTV reminded viewers that drowning is not like it is on TV, with people unable to call out, and said those who “do not have the rescue skills” should not try.
An editorial in Xinhua said children’s safety should be “highly valued”, especially during the summer.
It also called for practical safety education, adding: “The summer holiday is coming, this safety class that concerns children’s lives must be taken.”
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