Almost 100 killed, mostly women and children, after ferry capsizes on the Tigris river near Mosul, Iraq

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The ferry capsized on the Tigris River in Mosul during Kurdish New Year celebrations. (Screengrab - social media)
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Rescuers working to recover debris from the disaster. (Reuters)
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The area where an overloaded ferry sank in the Tigris river near Mosul on Thursday. (Reuters)
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Rescuers scoured the river for survivors after the ferry capsized. (Reuters)
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Iraqi rescuers search for survivors at the site where an overloaded ferry sank in the Tigris river. (Reuters)
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Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi visiting a man, who survived the Tigris ferry sinking. (AFP)
Updated 24 March 2019
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Almost 100 killed, mostly women and children, after ferry capsizes on the Tigris river near Mosul, Iraq

  • Most of the casualties on the ferry were women and children who could not swim
  • The ferry was overloaded with people celebrating the Kurdish new year

MOSUL: Almost 100 people, mostly women and children, died Thursday as a ferry packed with families celebrating Kurdish New Year sank in a swollen river in the former Daesh stronghold of Mosul, in Iraq’s worst accident in years.
There was an outpouring of grief among residents who only this year resumed the annual festivities on the banks of the Tigris after the northern city’s recapture from the 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.”
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 accident, which struck as the overloaded vessel turned back, also coincided with Mother’s Day in Iraq.
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.
“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.

Rescuers scoured the river for survivors after the ferry capsized. (Reuters)

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

 Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi visiting a man, who survived the Tigris ferry sinking. (AFP)


Hundreds of people who had flocked to the forested area for the first days of spring gathered on the river banks as the disaster unfolded.
Ambulances and police vehicles transported the dead and wounded to hospitals in the city of nearly two million people.
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’s my wife,” before collapsing in tears.
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.
Nawar, who had been aboard the craft, said it had capsized in mid-stream.
“It was carrying too many passengers, so the water began to rush onboard and the ferry became heavier and overturned,” he said. “With my own eyes I saw dead children in the water.”
As ambulances shuttled back and forth to the morgue, three young girls and a boy were huddled together in a blanket, in tears, waiting for news of their missing parents.
“All we wanted was to celebrate the New Year and it turned into a catastrophe,” a man passing the scene protested.
Iraq’s last major boat disaster was in March 2013 when a floating restaurant sank in Baghdad, killing five people.
Several political leaders denounced the lack of safety at dilapidated leisure facilities in a country where the dismal state of public services was one of the triggers for widespread protests last year.


Migrants stranded at sea for three weeks face deportation

Updated 31 min 59 sec ago
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Migrants stranded at sea for three weeks face deportation

  • Vessel carrying 75 illegal refugees, including 32 children, remained stranded 25 km off Tunisia

TUNIS: Tunisia has allowed dozens of migrants, mostly from Bangladesh, to disembark after three weeks stranded in the Mediterranean, so that they can return to their home countries, the Red Crescent said on Wednesday.

An Egyptian boat rescued at least 75 migrants in Tunisian waters last month. But local authorities in the governorate of Medinine said its migrant centers were too overcrowded to let them ashore, leaving the vessel stranded 25 km off the coastal city of Zarzis.

“After they were stranded for three weeks at sea in difficult conditions, Tunisia agreed to dock the ship, and migrants accepted to return to their countries in coming days,” Red Crescent official Mongi Slim told Reuters.

After a visit by officials from Bangladesh Embassy, the migrants agreed to return home, according to Mongi Slim, a Red Crescent official.

Earlier, Red Crescent representatives welcomed to port 64 Bangladeshis, nine Egyptians, a Moroccan, a Sudanese citizen, who left Zuwara in Libya in late May.

The migrants, which include at least 32 children and unaccompanied minors, are to be transferred to a reception center in Sfax from where they are set to return home, Slim added.

Worried about creating a precedent, Tunisian authorities said they accepted the migrants as an exception and for “humanitarian” reasons.

“We thank Tunisia’s renewed commitment to life and dignity,” said Lorena Lando, the head of the International Organization for Migration in Tunisia.

She added that it is urgent to put in place a collaborative approach to helping migrants in the Mediterranean.

Neighboring Libya’s west coast is a frequent departure point for African migrants hoping to reach Europe by paying human traffickers. But their numbers have dropped after an Italian-led effort to disrupt smuggling networks and support the Libyan coast guard.

At least 65 migrants drowned last month when their boat capsized off Tunisia after setting out from Libya.

In the first four months of 2019, 164 people are known to have died on the route, a smaller number but a higher death rate than in previous years, with one dying for every three who reach European shores, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said.