Iraqi Prime Minister orders investigation after ferry sinking kills at least 80
Boats rescue dozens of people in the Tigris River
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi ordered an investigation on Thursday in to the sinking of a vastly overcrowded boat, which killed at least 83 people in the Tigris River near Mosul.
Most of the casualties on the ferry were women and children who could not swim, Husam Khalil, head of Mosul's Civil Defence Authority, told Reuters.
He said the ferry had been loaded to several times its capacity.
“It can normally carry 50 people. There were 250 on board before the incident,” Mr Khalil said.
Rescue teams were still retrieving survivors and saved 61 people so far, Sky News Arabia reported.
Mr Abdul Mahdi expressed deep condolences to families of the victims and ordered the investigation's report to be released within the next 24 hours.
He pledged to hold to account anyone responsible for any failure or negligence.
Authorities in Baghdad are working closely with federal agencies and local authorities to support the victims’ families and the survivors, Mr Abdul Mahdi said.
The incident appears to have taken place at the ferry crossing between Umm Al Rabeen Island – a recreational island in the north-east of Mosul – and the mainland.
Thursday is Nowruz, a public holiday in Iraq marking the beginning of Persian new year. Many of those at the island would have been celebrating the holiday.
An Iraqi member of parliament tweeted a video of the accident, blaming it on a lack of safety.
East Mosul, the left bank of the river, was less damaged in the fighting against ISIS and rebounded quickly after the liberation of the city, compared to the west, which was more heavily damaged.
New shops, restaurants and wedding halls have opened along the left bank and it is seen as a safe place to go out.
Roads around the area have been closed to allow ambulances to enter the scene and military helicopters have been sent to assist in the rescue efforts.
Images from the scene show what appears to be dozens of people struggling to stay afloat in the swift flowing river, as three rescue boats try to save them.
Iraqi President Barham Salih sent his condolences to the victim's families and vowed to hold those responsible to account.
"We are in contact with the federal and local governments to mobilise efforts to treat the wounded and ensure that those missing are found," Mr Saleh said on Twitter.
Regional leaders including King Abdullah II of Jordan offered his condolences to Mr Salih.
At least 100 people stood by the banks and some jumped into the river to save those drowning.
Umm Al Rabeen Island houses an amusement park that re-opened after the fall of ISIS in Mosul.
Updated: March 22, 2019 09:40 AM