World

22 Mar 2019

Iraq ferry sinks, almost 100 dead on spring holiday trip

Almost 100 people, mostly women, and children, died as a ferry packed with families celebrating Kurdish New Year sank in a swollen river in the former jihadist stronghold of Mosul.

There was an outpouring of grief among residents who resumed the annual festivities on the banks of the Tigris only this year, after the northern city's recapture from the Islamic State group.

Here's more.

Details

PM decreed three days of national mourning, ordered swift investigation

PM decreed three days of national mourning, ordered swift investigation

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."

The vessel was crammed with men, women and children crossing the Tigris yesterday to go to a popular picnic area to celebrate Nowruz, the Kurdish New Year and a holiday across Iraq marking the start of spring.

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Death toll

61 women died in accident, which coincided with Mothers's Day

The accident, thought to be the worst in Iraq in years, struck as the overloaded vessel turned back, also coincided with Mother's Day in the country.

The interior ministry, issuing a fresh toll, said 94 had died and 55 were rescued after its spokesman Saad Maan said minimum 19 children were among the dead.

The premier said 61 women had died in the accident.

Disaster

It's a disaster, no one expected that, says a survivor

It's a disaster, no one expected that, says a survivor

While war and jihadist attacks have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Iraq in recent years, accidents like this are relatively rare.

"It is a disaster, no one expected that," said a young man who had just managed to reach the shore.

"There were a lot of people on the boat, especially women and children," he told AFP.

Boat sank because there were too many passengers: Security official

A Mosul security source said the high water levels and overcrowding on the boat, with well over 100 people on board, had been to blame for the disaster. "The boat sank because there were too many passengers on board," another security-official based in Mosul said.

Arrest

Owners of vessel, tourist site banned from leaving country: Justice-ministry

Iraq's justice ministry said it had ordered the arrest of nine ferry company officials and banned the owners of the vessel and the tourist site from leaving the country.

The authorities had also warned people to be cautious after several days of heavy rains led to water being released through the Mosul dam, causing the level of the river to rise.

Scenario

Footage showed fast-flowing river, dozens of people floating in water

Footage showed fast-flowing river, dozens of people floating in water

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.

Search operations stretched far downstream from the site where the boat sank, according to AFP.

Ambulances and police vehicles transported the dead and wounded to hospitals in the city of nearly two million people.

Identification

Victims' photos posted on morgue's walls for families to identify

Photos of victims, many of them women and children, were posted on the walls of a morgue for families unable to enter because of the large crowd who had gathered to identify their relatives.

One man, scanning over the pictures, stopped abruptly at the image of a woman.

In shock, he gasped, "It is my wife", before collapsing in tears.

Iraqi troops backed by US-led coalition recaptured Mosul in 2017

IS turned Mosul into their de facto Iraqi capital after the jihadists swept across much of the country's north in 2014. The city spent three years under the group's iron-fisted rule until it was recaptured by Iraqi troops backed by a US-led coalition in 2017.

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