“I cannot describe the scene, it’s a catastrophe,” an eyewitness.
Baghdad (QNN) – A ferry overloaded with people celebrating the Kurdish new year and the beginning of Spring capsized in the Tigris River near the Iraqi city of Mosul on Thursday, killing nearly 100, including families, officials said.
The ferry was overloaded with nearly 200 people, most of them could not swim and there was no life jackets on board, according to sources.
The boat had been ferrying people to a small island nearby.
Many of the victims were women and children who could be seen struggling to swim against a strong current, their heads bobbing in the water opposite restaurants and an amusement park where people had been celebrating minutes earlier.
Residents said the accident was the worst in recent memory.
The accident occurred as scores of people were out in the tourist area, known as Ghabat, celebrating Nowruz, which marks the Kurdish new year and the arrival of spring, col. Hussam Khalil, head of the Civil Defense in Iraq’s northern Nineveh province, told The Associated Press.
Families and relatives waiting on the banks appealed for the police to look for their loved ones.
As bodies of several victims washed off-shore, the Iraqi river police said that there are nearly 20 still missing.
Videos of the ferry disaster posted online showed people struggling against the strong current. Young men who were on the riverbanks jumped into the water with their clothes on to try and save people.
Falah al-Taii, director of Nineveh health department, said the majority of the victims were women and children.
“There is a large number of fathers and mothers who are looking for their children until now,” he added.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi ordered an investigation and, according to Iraqi TV, arrived in Mosul later Thursday.
The TV said nine workers operating the ferry have been detained and an arrest warrant is out for the owner of the tourist island where it was headed.
— Yasser Ali (@YasserA03238855) March 22, 2019
An overcrowded ferry sank into the Tigris River near Mosul, Iraq, as people gathered to celebrate Kurdish new year. Video taken by a witness shows a man diving into the water to rescue passengers in distress. At least 70 people drowned. https://t.co/rDsMTQZZde pic.twitter.com/i4OPX22XtR
— NBC News World (@NBCNewsWorld) March 22, 2019
Unbelievable. Ferry meant to carry 50 in #Mosul had 287 people on board. 105 of them killed, according to latest estimates, 80 survived, 102 still missing. https://t.co/Rkcn1U3T3t https://t.co/ol8HY2oaUP
— Nabih (@nabihbulos) March 22, 2019
— Rudaw English (@RudawEnglish) March 22, 2019