ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Mosul’s defense units on Friday said they took preventative measures to secure the city’s second ferry docked on the banks of the Tigris River in response to a distress call amid rising water levels.
Serving as shuttles for picnickers to visiting a man-made island, one of two of these ferries overloaded with about 250 people capsized in the middle of the river on March 21, a day when locals were participating in the Newroz New Year celebrations.
Over 100 are confirmed dead from the mass drowning, while roughly 60 – 85 people are still missing. Most of the victims were women and children as they were unable to swim to safety. The ferry itself was later pulled from the river.
Iraqi authorities have attributed the sinking to the negligence of the commercial operators for overburdening the ship with five times its capacity and allegedly not heeding the government’s warnings of dangerous rising water levels.
Since the tragic incident, work on the tourist island has been suspended and the owners arrested. The second boat is still floating on the river, but is stationary and out of service.
Earlier in the week, the Mosul dam facility increased its discharge flow rate from under 3,000 cubic meters per second to 3,325 due to rising reservoir levels and issued a warning that water levels downstream would be higher.
In a statement issued on Friday, Mosul’s Civil Defense Directorate said that its teams had responded to “a distress call to the Operations Division on the second ferry going out of control.”
“Civil defense teams have recovered and secured the remaining one of two ferries on the banks of the island” amid “rising river levels,” the statement continued, adding that it was necessary because the ferry “poses a serious risk if it goes off course and runs towards the supports and pillars of the old bridge.”
Amid widespread allegations of corruption and mishandling of the province’s reconstruction, the Iraqi parliament sacked Nineveh Governor Nawfal al-Akub at the request of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi following the incident.
Editing by John J. Catherine