No fewer than nine people were killed when a tourist boat capsized on a lake near Medellin on Sunday, Colombian officials have confirmed.

About 150 people were on board the multi-decked El Almirante when it  sank on Penol-Guatape Reservoir, which is popular with tourists and day-trippers.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that so far, six bodies had been pulled out of the water and 31 others were thought to be missing.

Earlier, the head of the local disaster relief office, Margarita Maria Moncada, said 9 bodies had been retrieved and 28 people were missing.

The regional government said 24 people were hospitalised.

Santos said several boats had come to the site of the disaster “and we hope that many of the missing people have been rescued.”

“Rescue crews reached the scene quickly and were able to pull many of the passengers out of the water,’’ he said.

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Those rescued by the emergency services said that all the passengers in the boat were able to don their life vests.

Regional government official, Victoria Eugenia Ramirez, said the El Almirante was booked to capacity when it set off.

She added that the boat did not collide with another vessel, but started sinking suddenly.

Earlier, the El Espectador newspaper quoted a representative of the regional government as saying it was unclear if the vessel was overloaded before it listed and went down.

The news portal El Colombiano streamed footage of the boat sinking.

Rescue efforts continued overnight. The cause of the accident has yet to be determined.

Source: dpa/NAN