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Two Dead, One Missing After Hindu Ceremony Off Georgia Coast

Two men were killed, two others were injured and a fifth remained missing Monday night after they were stranded at high tide during a Hindu religious celebration in coastal Georgia, authorities said.

The men were trapped late Sunday afternoon by the current at Tybee Island, near Savannah on the Atlantic coast, according to the Tybee Island Fire Department.

Four men were pulled from the water near a sandbar close to where the Back River meets the Atlantic, the fire department said. Two were declared dead of drowning at Memorial University Medical Center, where the conditions of the two others weren't reported.

Crews from Tybee Island, Savannah, Chatham County and the Coast Guard were to resume a search Tuesday morning for a fifth man who remained missing, Fire Chief Ashley Fields told NBC station WSAV of Savannah.

The men were among dozens of people who had gathered on the south end of the island to celebrate Ganesha Murti Visarajan in honor of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha, said Indian service groups helping India's consulate in Atlanta assist the men's families. The ceremony commonly involves submersing clay or metal representations of Ganesha in a body of water.

Sunil Savili, co-founder of the service group Indian Friends of Atlanta, traveled to Tybee with a consulate official. Savili told NRI Pulse, a newspaper for the Indian-American community, that the group was helping to coordinate funerals in India for the men who died.

"I had a quick meeting with the friends and asked them to appeal to the congressmen, the Coast Guard and local sheriff's department to continue the search [for the missing man], and they are going to do that tomorrow," Savili told the newspaper.

Linda Lam, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel, said much of the East Coast, including the Savannah area, was hit with rip currents over the weekend caused by the interaction of a low-pressure system off the East Coast and a high-pressure system over northern New England.

"This setup brought coastal flooding, heavy rain and gusty winds, in addition to rip currents," Lam said.