Alwaght- At least 72 people died when an overloaded ferry sank in the Tigris river near Mosul in Iraq.
The head of Mosul's Civil Defense Authority Husam Khalil said most of the casualties on the ferry were women and children who could not swim.
He added that the incident occurred on Thursday while scores of people – mostly women and children – were celebrating Nowruz, which marks the Persian New Year and the arrival of spring. This day is celebrated by many Iraqis.
A separate source in the Civil Defense Authority said the boat had been loaded with twice its capacity, causing it to capsize.
Mobile phone footage showed the ferry sinking into the muddy water and people shouting for help.
The rescue team was retrieving survivors and had rescued 12 people so far, Khalil said.
Police and medical sources said earlier at least 40 people had drowned. A source in a nearby hospital and another in a morgue said the toll had risen to 72.
The accident took place to the north of the city, near a recreational area popular with families.
The health ministry spokesman, Seif al-Badr, said the victims included 33 women, 12 children and 10 men. He said 30 people were rescued, adding that search operations were still under way and it was not known how many people were on the ferry.
Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the Iraqi prime minister, ordered an investigation and expressed deep condolences to the families of the victims.
The water level on the Tigris was high because of a rainy season that brought more precipitation than in previous years.