Fri Nov 4, 2005 9:23 AM GMT

KARACHI (Reuters) - A passenger ferry believed to have been overloaded sank in southern Pakistan on Friday and 60 people were drowned, government officials said.

The accident came nearly four weeks after an earthquake killed more than 73,000 people in the country's northern mountains. "According to our information, 60 people have been killed," a navy spokesman, Lieutenant Commander Salman Ali, said of the ferry accident.

The ferry sank in a coastal creek near the town of Keti Bandar, in Thatta district, which is at the mouth of the Indus River, about 70 km (45 miles) southeast of Karachi, Ali said.

"We have sent our diving and rescue teams to the area," he said.

Police said 17 bodies had been recovered.

A provincial spokesman said 80 people were on board the boat when the accident happened. The cause was being investigated but it was thought the vessel was overloaded.

"At the moment we feel the boat was overloaded and they failed to take required precautionary measures," said provincial government spokesman Salahuddin Haider.

The boat was believed to have been taking people to a shrine to mark Friday's Eid al-Fitr holiday, which follows the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Haider said.

The accident will add to the sombre mood of the holiday festival in Pakistan after the catastrophic earthquake that hit the north of country on October 8.