File picture: Gerry Broome/AP

Hanoi - Eight children drowned on Thursday while playing in a northern Vietnamese river, local authorities reported.

The Hoa Binh provincial fire and rescue authorities received word in the afternoon that eight children had gone missing while swimming in the Da River in Hoa Binh city, the provincial authorities posted on their official news site.

By 4:30 pm (0930 GMT), the bodies of all eight children, aged between four and 15, had been taken ashore by around 40 rescue workers. All the children were pupils at the nearby Huu Nghi Primary and Secondary School.

Local authorities are investigating the cause of the drownings.

Around 2,000 children drown every year in Vietnam, according to government statistics, making it the country's leading cause of death among children under 15 years old.