At least 93 killed in ferry sinking in Iraq's Mosul

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Ambulances arrive at a hospital after the ferry sinking in Mosul, Iraq, March 21, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

A ferryboat sank in Tigris River in Iraq's northern city of Mosul on Thursday, leaving at least 93 dead and sparking anger among Iraqis.

The incident took place in the afternoon when a ferryboat carrying dozens of people capsized because of high water levels while crossing from the bank of the river to a small tourist island called Um al Rabeein in northern Mosul, some 400 km north of the capital Baghdad.

According to a civil defense source, the ferryboat owned by a tourism office was overloaded with more than 100 people, while the ferryboat is originally designed to carry some 30 people.

An Interior Ministry source said some 93 people, mostly women and children, drowned in the river and their bodies were recovered, while 55 others were rescued, including 19 children.

"We have 93 people killed in the ferry sinking in Mosul, and the search operations continued for more possible victims," Saad Maan, a ministry spokesman, said in a press release.

No accurate figures are available yet about the number of people the ferry was carrying when the accident happened.

The search operation is expected to continue in the coming days.

"Investigation is underway, and apparently the capacity of the ferry was below the number of passengers aboard," Maan said earlier.

Meanwhile, a statement by the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council, said Mosul investigation court has decided to arrest nine workers responsible for the ferry.

"The court also issued an arrest warrant for the owner of the ferry and the owner of the island," the statement added.

Hours after the incident, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi paid a surprise visit to Mosul, capital of Nineveh Province, and held a meeting with Nineveh's Operations Command, which is responsible for the security of Nineveh.

A statement by the prime minister's media office said Abdul Mahdi declared "official mourning in all parts of Iraq and in the embassies and (diplomatic) representations of Iraq abroad for three days from Thursday."

"We condole the families of the victims of the ferry on behalf of all Iraqis, and we are here a few hours after the ferry incident to follow up the investigation," Abdul Mahdi said in Mosul.

During his trip to Mosul, Abdul Mahdi visited a site of the incident on the Tigris River and a hospital where many of the survivors were receiving treatment.

"Justice must take its course through an investigation by a committee formed for this purpose to identify the causes of the sinking of the ferry and those defaulters must be punished according to the law," Abdul Mahdi told reporters during his visit to the hospital.

For his part, Iraqi President Barham Salih condoled Iraqis on the incident, saying he is in contact with the federal government, Nineveh's provincial government and the regional government of Kurdistan "to mobilize efforts to treat the wounded and search for the missing people," according to a statement issued by his office.

Salih confirmed that the "tragedy will not pass without serious accountability" for those responsible for the incident, the statement said. 

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