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

1 / 6
The ferry capsized on the Tigris River in Mosul during Kurdish New Year celebrations. (Screengrab - social media)
2 / 6
Rescuers working to recover debris from the disaster. (Reuters)
3 / 6
The area where an overloaded ferry sank in the Tigris river near Mosul on Thursday. (Reuters)
4 / 6
Rescuers scoured the river for survivors after the ferry capsized. (Reuters)
5 / 6
Iraqi rescuers search for survivors at the site where an overloaded ferry sank in the Tigris river. (Reuters)
6 / 6
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi visiting a man, who survived the Tigris ferry sinking. (AFP)
Updated 24 March 2019
0

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.


Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

An Asian domestic worker walks her employer's dog in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, on April 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 April 2019
0

Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

  • Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come

BEIRUT: Amnesty International on Wednesday urged Lebanon to end what it described as an “inherently abusive” migration sponsorship system governing the lives of tens of thousands of foreigners working in private homes.
Domestic workers in Lebanon are excluded from the labor law, and instead obtain legal residency though their employers’ sponsorship under the so-called “kafala” system.
But activists say this leaves the maids, nannies and carers at the mercy of their employers and unable to leave without their permission, including in numerous documented cases of abuse.
“Amnesty International is calling on the Lebanese authorities to end the kafala system and extend labor protections to migrant domestic workers,” the London-based rights group said.
“The Lebanese parliament should amend the labor law to include domestic workers under its protection,” including to allow them to join unions, the group said.
Lebanon hosts more than 250,000 registered domestic workers from countries in Africa and Asia, the vast majority of them women.
In a report released Wednesday titled “Their house is my prison,” Amnesty surveyed 32 domestic workers employed mostly in and around Beirut, revealing “alarming patterns of abuse.”
Among them, 10 women said they were not allowed to leave their employer’s house, with some saying they were locked in.
Twenty-seven said their employers had confiscated their passports.
Many worked overtime, 14 were not allowed a single day off each week, and several had their monthly salaries revoked or decreased, despite it being a breach of their contracts.
The labor ministry introduced a standard contract for domestic workers in 2009, but the forms are often written in Arabic, a language they cannot read.
The government in late 2018 said it had translated the contracts into several other languages.
Amnesty registered eight cases of forced labor and four of human trafficking, the report said.
Six reported severe physical abuse, while almost all had been subjected to humiliating treatment and several were deprived of food.
“Sometimes I would get so hungry... I used to mix water with sugar when I was hungry and drink it,” one worker said.
With the abuse taking a toll on their mental health, six said they had contemplated or attempted suicide.
Only four of those interviewed had private rooms, while the rest were relegated to living rooms, storage rooms, kitchens or balconies.
“There is a man in the house who can enter the living room any time he wants,” said one worker who was forced to sleep in the living room.
Activists accuse the Lebanese authorities of being lax in bringing abusive employers to account.
Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come.
In 2008, Human Rights Watch found that migrant domestic workers in Lebanon were dying at a rate of more than one per week from suicide or in failed escapes.
Many other countries in the Arab world also follow the “kafala” system for household workers.