Mosul ferry disaster death toll rises to nearly 100

Mosul ferry disaster death toll rises to nearly 100
The death toll from a Mosul ferry disaster has risen to nearly 100.
2 min read
22 March, 2019
The ferry sank on the River Tigris [Getty]

Almost 100 people have died, mostly women and children, after a ferry sank on a swollen river in northern Iraq on Thursday during a holiday season.

The passengers were travelling near Mosul for the Kurdish-Persian New Year celebrations of Nowruz when the ferry sank, in Iraq's worst accident in years.

It was the first Nowruz celebrations in the area for years, after the Islamic State group.

Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi announced three days of national mourning and ordered a swift investigation "to determine responsibilities".

Mosul's Civil Defence Authority Husam Khalil said that the boat was over capacity when it capsized and the number of women and children onboard who couldn't swim contributed to the high death toll.

"It can normally carry 50 people. There were 250 on board before the incident," he told Reuters.

Medical sources told the news agency said that at least 79 people died.

The ferry was crossing the Tigris towards a popular picnic area for the Nowruz celebrations, the Kurdish New Year and a holiday across Iraq marking the start of spring, and also coincided with Mother's Day in Iraq.

The interior ministry, issuing a fresh toll, said 94 people have died and 55 were rescued, after its spokesman Saad Maan with at least 19 children and 61 women among the dead.

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

"It's 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.

"The boat sank because there were too many passengers on board," another security official based in Mosul told AFP.

Nine ferry company officials have been arrested while the owners of the vessel and the tourist site have been banned from leaving the country.

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 an AFP journalist.