THE Iraqi Parliament has voted to remove the governor of Nineveh, Nufal Hammadi, on grounds of corruption and negligence, after a ferry disaster near the provincial capital of Mosul last week sparked angry protests from citizens.
More than 100 people, including dozens of children, drowned in the Tigris river near Mosul last Thursday when the vessel in which they were travelling capsized. Fifty-five people were reportedly rescued, and 63 people were still missing, feared dead, on Tuesday.
Most of the passengers were women and children travelling to an island near by to celebrate the Kurdish New Year and Mothering Sunday. Videos appeared online that showed passengers struggling to swim against the strong current.
The head of the civil defence in the province, Colonel Hussam Khalil, said that the ferry had sunk because of a technical problem, and that there had been few boats in the area to carry out a rescue in the high tide. Snowmelt from mountains in Turkey, exacerbated by a heavy rainy season, had caused the usually calm river to swell.
Local reports, however, suggest that the ferry, which had capacity for 50 people, was significantly overcrowded. The authorities state that 80 people were on board, but local reports put the figure much higher.
On Saturday, the Prime Minister of Iraq, Adil Abdul Mahdi, ordered three days of national mourning and called for Mr Hammadi to be sacked, citing “negligence and concrete failings”. Mr Hammadi’s two deputies were also sacked during a vote in the national assembly, on Sunday.
It came as students from the University of Mosul held a silent protest on campus, dressed in black, to mourn the victims. The government has since ordered an inquiry into the disaster; at least 16 people have so far been arrested as part of the investigation.
Pope Francis expressed his grief for the loss of life and prayed for “healing, strength and consolation” for Iraq, and its second-largest city, Mosul, in a telegram signed on his behalf by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
Mosul was all but destroyed by three years of fighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and IS, and the US-led Iraqi coalition, which eventually took back the city in July 2017. The United Nations has pledged its support to the Republic of Iraq in the aftermath of the disaster.