MOSUL (Reuters) – At least 79 people died when a congested ferry-carrying family went on a trip to the Tigris River in Mosul in northern Iraq, medical sources told Reuters on Thursday.
Most of the deaths on the ferry were women and children who could not swim, said the head of Mosul's Civil Defense Authority Husam Khalil.
He said the ferry had been loaded several times its capacity. "It can usually carry 50 people. There were 250 on board before the accident," he said.
Five ferry workers were arrested after late Thursday, security sources said. Rescue workers were still looking for missing passengers.
The boat ferries people to a man-made island used as a recreational area by families, according to a witness.
"I was standing close to the river when the ship began to tilt left and right, and the passengers started screaming before it curled," said Mohamed Masoud, a local official.
"I saw women and children waving with their hands and asking for help, but no one was there to save them. I don't know how to swim. I couldn't help. I feel guilty. I saw people drown. "
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi commissioned an accident investigation and said on Twitter that those responsible would be held accountable.
Mobile phone recordings showed that the ferry sinks into the muddy water and people shout for help. Among the dead were about 1
Reconstruction of the Mosul, many of which were destroyed in a military campaign to recover the city from Islamic state militants in 2017, has hardly begun and is random.
Residents say they feel abandoned by the state, but have returned and began to rebuild their own home. The city's infrastructure remains largely damaged.
The rescue team retrieved survivors and had saved 12 people so far, Khalil said.
Police and medical sources said earlier that at least 40 people had drowned. A source in a nearby hospital and another in a morning said the toll had risen to 79.
The accident occurred north of the city, close to a recreational area popular with families.
Reporting Jamal Al-Badrani and Salih Elias; Further reporting of Hesham Hajali in Cairo, Writing by Ahmed Rasheed and John Davison, Editing by Janet Lawrence, William Maclean