Almost 100 killed, mostly women and children, after ferry capsizes on the Tigris river near Mosul, Iraq

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The ferry capsized on the Tigris River in Mosul during Kurdish New Year celebrations. (Screengrab - social media)
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Rescuers working to recover debris from the disaster. (Reuters)
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The area where an overloaded ferry sank in the Tigris river near Mosul on Thursday. (Reuters)
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Rescuers scoured the river for survivors after the ferry capsized. (Reuters)
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Iraqi rescuers search for survivors at the site where an overloaded ferry sank in the Tigris river. (Reuters)
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Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi visiting a man, who survived the Tigris ferry sinking. (AFP)
Updated 24 March 2019
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Almost 100 killed, mostly women and children, after ferry capsizes on the Tigris river near Mosul, Iraq

  • Most of the casualties on the ferry were women and children who could not swim
  • The ferry was overloaded with people celebrating the Kurdish new year

MOSUL: Almost 100 people, mostly women and children, died Thursday as a ferry packed with families celebrating Kurdish New Year sank in a swollen river in the former Daesh stronghold of Mosul, in Iraq’s worst accident in years.
There was an outpouring of grief among residents who only this year resumed the annual festivities on the banks of the Tigris after the northern city’s recapture from the Daesh group.
Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi decreed three days of national mourning as he visited the site of the tragedy. He ordered a swift investigation “to determine responsibilities.”
The vessel was crammed with men, women and children crossing the Tigris to go to a popular picnic area to celebrate Nowruz, the Kurdish New Year and a holiday across Iraq marking the start of spring.

The accident, which struck as the overloaded vessel turned back, also coincided with Mother’s Day in Iraq.
The interior ministry, issuing a fresh toll, said 94 people had died and 55 were rescued, after its spokesman Saad Maan said at least 19 children were among the dead.
The premier said 61 women had died in the accident.
While war and extremist attacks have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Iraq in recent years, such accidents are relatively rare.
“It’s a disaster, no one expected that,” said a young man who had just managed to reach the shore.
“There were a lot of people on the boat, especially women and children,” he told AFP.

Rescuers scoured the river for survivors after the ferry capsized. (Reuters)

A Mosul security source said the high water levels and overcrowding on the boat, with well over 100 people on board, had been to blame for the disaster.
“The boat sank because there were too many passengers on board,” another security official based in Mosul told AFP.
Iraq’s justice ministry said it had ordered the arrest of nine ferry company officials and banned the owners of the vessel and the tourist site from leaving the country.
The authorities had warned people to be cautious after several days of heavy rains led to water being released through the Mosul dam, causing the river level to rise.
Videos shared on social media showed a fast-flowing, bloated river and dozens of people floating in the water or trying to swim around the partly submerged boat.
Search operations stretched far downstream from the site where the boat sank, according to an AFP journalist.

 Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi visiting a man, who survived the Tigris ferry sinking. (AFP)


Hundreds of people who had flocked to the forested area for the first days of spring gathered on the river banks as the disaster unfolded.
Ambulances and police vehicles transported the dead and wounded to hospitals in the city of nearly two million people.
Photos of victims, many of them women and children, were posted on the walls of a morgue for families unable to enter because of the large crowd who had gathered to identify their relatives.
One man, scanning over the pictures, stopped abruptly at the image of a woman.
In shock, he gasped: “It’s my wife,” before collapsing in tears.
IS turned Mosul into their de facto Iraqi capital after the jihadists swept across much of the country’s north in 2014.
The city spent three years under the group’s iron-fisted rule until it was recaptured by Iraqi troops backed by a US-led coalition in 2017.
Nawar, who had been aboard the craft, said it had capsized in mid-stream.
“It was carrying too many passengers, so the water began to rush onboard and the ferry became heavier and overturned,” he said. “With my own eyes I saw dead children in the water.”
As ambulances shuttled back and forth to the morgue, three young girls and a boy were huddled together in a blanket, in tears, waiting for news of their missing parents.
“All we wanted was to celebrate the New Year and it turned into a catastrophe,” a man passing the scene protested.
Iraq’s last major boat disaster was in March 2013 when a floating restaurant sank in Baghdad, killing five people.
Several political leaders denounced the lack of safety at dilapidated leisure facilities in a country where the dismal state of public services was one of the triggers for widespread protests last year.


Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

Updated 20 July 2019
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Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

  • Hazza Al-Mansoori 'living a dream' as he and backup astronaut train for space mission in September
  • Soyuz-MS 15 launch could be the beginning of a bold new era of Arab exploration of space

DUBAI: More than 30 years after an Arab first journeyed into space, an  Emirati is preparing to become the latest Arab space traveler when he joins a team of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) in September.

For months, Hazza Al-Mansoori and backup pilot Sultan Al-Neyadi have been undergoing intensive training in Russia, Germany and the US to prepare for the mission. The first Emirati to travel into space will make the historic journey on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.

During the eight-day mission, he will conduct a tour of the ISS for Arabic viewers on Earth and carry out 15 experiments for the Science in Space schools competition conducted by Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center.

The crew, who will include an American and a Russian, are allowed to take up to 1 kg of personal items with them on the mission.

“I will take my family photo and share the experience of being in space with them,” Al-Mansoori said. There will also be an image of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father, meeting American astronauts in 1976.

“I am also going to take an Emirati flag. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.”

‘I will take an Emirati flag into space. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.’

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori

Al-Mansoori will join an elite space club comprising Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman and Syria’s Muhammed Faris. Prince Sultan became the first Arab to travel to space as part of space shuttle Discovery’s crew in 1985. Faris was a crew member of USSR’s Soyuz spacecraft in 1987.

The Emirati astronaut is aware that history is resting on his shoulders. Speaking to the media recently during his training program in Houston, Al-Mansoori  said it is a huge personal honor to be the first Emirati chosen for space exploration.

“I’m excited about the whole mission, but especially to experience the microgravity and be living in the ISS, and conducting daily experiments and working with the amazing group on board,” he said.

Al-Mansoori and Al-Neyadi have been undergoing rigorous training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The program includes familiarization with NASA equipment on board the space station, and handling emergency situations, such as ammonia gas leaks and depressurization.

The Emiratis have been trained to fend for themselves if the return goes off course and they land in the wilderness of Russia.

Speaking of the Soyuz-MS 15 mission, Yousuf Al-Shaibani, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, said: “We strive to see the UAE Astronaut Program achieve its objective of preparing generations of Emiratis who will contribute to enhancing the country’s position in space science and research to serve the ambitious aspirations aimed at building a national knowledge-based economy.”

The September launch could prove to be the beginning of a bold new era for Arabs and space. Al-Neyadi, the backup pilot, has been promised a seat on a future mission, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia are drawing up ambitious plans for the development of the region’s space industry.