At least 22 children have drowned in Sudan when their boat sank in the Nile while they were on their way to school, according to official media.

A woman also died when the vessel went down around 750km north of the capital, Khartoum, with more than 40 children on board, the SUNA news agency reported on Wednesday.

The accident occurred when the boat’s engine broke down as result of heavy rains and winds in Beheir district in the Nile River state.

Civil defense forces were still searching the Nile river for the bodies of the victims.

Villagers in the region rely on wooden boats to cross the Nile.

A witness told AFP news agency by telephone that the boat had been crossing the river against the current.

“All the families [in the area] are in mourning,” added the witness, who did not want to be named.

Earlier on Wednesday, Sudanese authorities ordered the closure of schools across Khartoum amid heavy torrential rains and winds that have destroyed hundreds of homes in some provinces, including North Darfur and North Kordofan.

Nearly 40 people have been killed due to heavy rains since last week, including 10 in Khartoum, according to local media.

The Sudanese people took to social media this week to blame the authorities over the death of the children. They also accused government of negligence and reluctance to recover the bodies of the drown children. The government has said the heavy tides in the Nile are hampering their efforts to recover the bodies.

The parents and relatives of the missing children have been seen gathering at the seen of the incident this week with no presence of any government authorities. Fishermen and divers who were willing to help in the search said the government had warned them from trying to start the search.