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Death Toll Rises in Iraq Ferry Accident, and Governor’s Resignation Is Sought – The New York Times

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MOSUL, Iraq — At least 97 people died when a pleasure raft capsized in the Tigris River this week, officials said Saturday, as rescuers continued to find victims who had been pulled as much as 25 miles downstream by the swift current and others who had been trapped under the ferry.

The horror of the accident had set off angry protests in Mosul on Friday, mostly by young residents who blamed the government, especially the provincial governor, Nawfal Hamadi, and the boat’s owners.

Within a day of Thursday’s accident, as the death toll steadily grew, Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mehdi requested that the Iraqi Parliament relieve Mr. Hamadi of his post on the grounds of abuse of power and waste of public money.

In a letter to the Parliament, which has right to fire Mr. Hamadi, Mr. Mehdi cited “negligence” and “shortcomings in carrying out his duties and responsibilities.” Mr. Hamadi, whose government licensed the raft, has not responded publicly.

The accident — which occurred on the Kurdish New Year, which is celebrated by families across northern Iraq regardless of ethnicity — turned a day of picnicking, dancing and dressing-up into one of mourning.

People had crowded onto the boat, little more than a raft with flimsy railings and a canopy to keep off the sun, to cross to a small island in the middle of the river with a grassy area for picnics and a small amusement park.

The river was high and the boat was so overloaded it was sitting low in the water as metal cables cranked it into the middle of the river.

When one of the cables broke, it tipped the raft to one side and caused more than 180 passengers to slide in that direction. That, in turn, caused the raft to capsize, dumping men, women and children into the bitterly cold water.

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