94 people have been killed, mostly women and children, as a ferry packed with families celebrating Kurdish New Year sank in a swollen river in Mosul. This is the worst accident in years.
This was the first year the annual festivities had resumed on the banks of the Tigris after the northern city’s recapture from the ISIS/Daesh group.
Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi decreed three days of national mourning as he visited the site of the tragedy. He ordered a swift investigation “to determine responsibilities.”
Preliminary reports suggest the vessel was crammed with men, women and children crossing the Tigris to go to a popular picnic area to celebrate Nowruz, the Kurdish New Year and a holiday across Iraq marking the start of spring.
The ferry had been overloaded, several times above its recommended capacity. “It can normally carry 50 people. There were 250 on board before the incident,” he said.
Five ferry workers were arrested after late on Thursday, security sources said. Rescue workers were still looking for missing passengers.
The boat was ferrying people to a man-made island used as a recreational area by families, according to one witness.
The interior ministry, issuing a fresh toll, said 94 people had died and 55 were rescued after its spokesman Saad Maan said at least 19 children were among the dead.
The premier said 61 women had died in the accident.
While war and extremist attacks have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Iraq in recent years, such accidents are relatively rare.
Reconstruction of Mosul, much of which was destroyed in a military campaign to recapture the city from Daesh militants in 2017, has barely begun and is haphazard.
Residents say they feel abandoned by the central government, but have returned and started to rebuild their own homes. The city’s infrastructure remains largely damaged.
The authorities had warned people to be cautious after several days of heavy rains led to water being released through the Mosul dam, causing the river level to rise.
Videos shared on social media showed a fast-flowing, bloated river and dozens of people floating in the water or trying to swim around the partly submerged boat.
The accident took place to the north of the city, near a recreational area popular with families.
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