A ferry carrying over 200 people capsized in the Tigris river in Iraq’s city of Mosul on Thursday. Iraq’s interior ministry said 94 people had died in the incident and 55 people were rescued, AFP reported. Spokesperson Saad Maan said at least 19 children were among the dead.
Husam Khalil, head of Mosul’s Civil Defence Authority, said most casualties were women and children who could not swim, reported Reuters. Khalil said the ferry had been overloaded. “It can normally carry 50 people,” he said. “There were 250 on board before the incident.”
Khalil said the ferry sank because of a technical problem and that there were not many boats in the area to rescue the people.
The ferry was transporting people to a tourist island to celebrate Nowruz, which marks the Kurdish New Year and the arrival of spring, AP reported.
Unidentified officials said fiver ferry workers were arrested on Thursday night. Rescue workers were still searching for missing passengers.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi ordered an inquiry into the accident and said that those responsible would be held accountable.
Falah al-Taii, director of Nineveh health department, said the number of victims that arrived at the forensic department and in the hospitals in Mosul was more than 60, a majority of them being women and children.
Saudi Aziz, a 23-year-old Kurd, said he was on another ferry crossing the river. He said the ferry which capsized was overloaded with people. He said he jumped in the water and managed to save a 20-year-old girl.
The Tigris river is usually tame but is running high this time of year, due to snowmelt from mountains in Turkey.