(CNN)At least 71 people died, including 12 children, when an overcrowded ferry capsized in Iraq’s Tigris river in Mosul during Nowruz and Mother’s Day celebrations.
Nearly 150 people were on board, including over 80 women and children, according to health ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr. The ferry was transporting people from a bank of the river to a small tourist island called Um al Rabeein. It capsized halfway because of high water levels in the river, according to Nineveh mayor, Abd al-Sattar Habu. “My family was happy and preparing food to celebrate Nowruz,” said Survivor Omtir Tajuddin who lost his mother. Nowruz is the Persian New Year, while Mother’s Day is also celebrated on March 21 in the Arab world. “Is it conceivable that my mother goes on Mother’s Day? She survived ISIS only to die in the ferry that sailed only a hundred meters from the shore to Umm al-Rabeein Island. We are a people without value,” Tajuddin added. Read MoreRescue teams were able to recover a number of bodies from the river, and search operations are still ongoing, he said.”The Department of Water Resources warned a few days ago that the level of water will rise as a result of the opening of dams,” Habu added.The ferry was loaded with over twice the permitted capacity, Civil Defense General Manager Brigadier Malik Bohan told state-owned Al Iraqiya.Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul al-Mahdi ordered an immediate investigation and demanded that the findings be presented to him within 24 hours, according to a statement.The US embassy in Baghdad issued a statement expressing condolences to families of the victims. “Chargé d’Affaires Joey Hood and the entire United States Mission express our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives in the tragic ferry accident on the Tigris River near Mosul,” it read.