At least 94 people were killed when an overloaded ferry capsized on the Tigris River near the Iraqi city of Mosul Thursday.
Officials said more than 180 people were on board, celebrating the Kurdish New Year, Nowruz, and Mother’s Day. Most of the victims were women and children struggling to swim in the fast-moving current.
The normally tame Tigris is running high and swift because of heavy rains and snowmelt from mountains in Turkey. Officials had also warned residents in Mosul that the level of the river was expected to rise because they had released some water from a nearby dam.
The death toll was expected to rise as people awaited news of their loved ones.
“Children, women and young, what can I tell you? It was a difficult situation,’’ said Abdulrazzaq Falih, a rescuer with the river police of Mosul. He said he had pulled some 20 bodies from the water.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi traveled to Mosul from Baghdad and announced a three-day national mourning for the victims. He also promised that an investigation into the accident would be completed within 24 hours.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a statement expressing condolences to families of the victims.
A spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement that the secretary-general “is saddened by the tragic loss of lives ... and extends his condolences to the families of the victims, the Government and people of Iraq and wishes them injured a speedy recovery.”
The statement said the secretary-general also “conveys the solidarity of the United Nations with the Republic of Iraq as well as its readiness to support national assistance efforts as needed.”