An overcrowded ferry capsized in the Tigris River near Mosul, killing at least 102 people during Nowruz and Mother’s Day celebrations on Thursday, officials said.
Among the victims were at least 12 children, officials have said.
Of the more than 170 people who were on board, about 60 are missing, said Mosul Mayor Zuhair al-Araji.
The ferry was transporting people from a bank of the river to a small tourist island called Umm al-Rabeein.
“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.
Rescue teams were able to recover a number of bodies from the river, and search operations are ongoing, he said.
Duraid Hikmat Tobya, the director of Nineveh Water Resources, said the boat capsized halfway because of high water levels in the river.
The ferry was loaded with over twice the permitted capacity, Civil Defense General Manager Brigadier Malik Bohan told state-owned Al Iraqiya.
Minister Adil Abdul al-Mahdi ordered an immediate investigation and demanded 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.
CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq and Muwafaq Mohammed contributed to this report.