updated 10/26/2009 9:53:26 PM ET 2009-10-27T01:53:26

A new footbridge across a Malaysian river collapsed while schoolchildren crossed it during a camping trip, killing one girl and leaving two missing and feared drowned in the currents below, officials said Tuesday.

Police, firefighters and emergency services personnel were scouring the Kampar River in northern Malaysia where the 12-year-old students disappeared late Monday, said district police chief Aziz Salleh.

An error in registration records of the 300 students on the trip caused authorities to earlier estimate that 22 had disappeared, Aziz said. At least 20 students were walking on the 160-foot-long bridge when it collapsed, but most managed to cling to it or were pulled to safety by their teachers.

K. Mathivanan, 12, told national news agency Bernama that the bridge had been swaying and abruptly collapsed after some students jumped on it. The scene turned chaotic as students screamed for help and started crying.

"Suddenly we were thrown into the river, but I managed to hold on to a rope," Mathivanan told Bernama. "The currents were strong but I pulled my body up" to the shore.

The iron-cable bridge was about 10 feet over the river and was built to replace an old one that had fallen apart with age, Aziz said. Authorities would investigate why it collapsed so easily.

Search teams found the girl's body about 1 mile from the bridge, Aziz said.

The students were participating in a government-run project to foster multiracial understanding among children of different ethnic groups by making them camp together, cook traditional dishes and play cultural games.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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