71 dead after drowning ferry in the Tigris River in Mosul

The death toll from the sinking of a ferry carrying families in the Tigris River in Mosul has risen to 71, mostly women and children, Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Saad Maan said on Thursday.

"The number of people rescued was 55, including 19 children, and the number of victims was 71 among women, children and men," Maan said in an audio tape.

A previous toll had said 54 people had died.

A security source in Mosul told AFP that "the ferry was transporting more than its capacity," with a capacity of about 100 people while carrying about 200.

The victims were on their way to cross the Tigris River to go to the tourist city in the forests of Mosul, one of the entertainment parks to participate in the celebrations of Norouz, or the Kurdish New Year, a day of official leave in Iraq.

The incident comes one day after the Ministry of Water Resources warned citizens to pay attention to the opening of the gates of the Mosul Dam because of the increase in the reserves.

Activists posted pictures and videos of the tragedy in social networking sites showing victims pushed by the Tigris River at high speed.

The pictures showed a number of volunteers trying to rescue some of the victims, including a large number of children and women.

Images of children whose bodies have been recovered from the river have been published.

The Minister of Health and Environment, Dr. Alaeddin Alwan, instructed the ministry of health in the Kurdistan region and the health departments in Kirkuk and Saladin, as well as the cadres of the Ninawa health department currently in the scene.

Nowruz, meaning "New Day", is celebrated on March 21, AD. It is the largest holiday in Iran and with the Kurds, especially in northern Iraq, Afghanistan and Turkey.

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