ERBIL, Iraq — A boat overloaded with people celebrating the Kurdish New Year sank in the Tigris River on Thursday, drowning at least 71 people, Iraqi security and health officials said.
Families enjoying the holiday thronged onto a ferry that usually carries workers across the river and back near Mosul, but was being used for recreation. One of the cables that secure the ferry to the river bank snapped and the boat sank, an official for the Mosul Tourism Office said.
Among the victims were many women and children, but some 19 children were rescued along with 34 adults, the Interior Ministry spokesman, Saad Maan, said.
Mosul’s mayor, Zuhair al-Araji, said everyone who was there rushed to help.
“The Civil Defense force tried to save everyone they could in cooperation with the aquatic security forces and with fishermen and volunteers,” he said.
Mosul was occupied by the Islamic State for nearly four years until it was defeated by a punishing air and ground fight that left the city shattered. The gradual return of small pleasures and holiday celebrations has been a balm to the battered population and had helped bring back a sense of normalcy.
The water level in the river is very high this year because the spring has been rainier than usual, said Bashar Kikee, a former head of the Ninevah Provincial Council.
The holiday, which marks the beginning of spring, is known as Nowruz and is celebrated throughout Iraqi Kurdistan, but also in nearby Mosul.
The Iraqi Parliament is opening an investigation into the sinking.