Dozens dead as ferry sinks in Tigris near Mosul

A ferry overloaded with people celebrating the Kurdish new year has sunk in the Tigris river near the Iraqi city of Mosul, killing at least 45 people, an official said.

Colonel Hussam Khalil, head of the Civil Defence in Nineveh province, said the accident occurred as scores of people were out in the tourist area celebrating Nowruz, which marks the Kurdish new year and the arrival of spring.

Col Khalil said many of the dead were women and children, adding that search operations are still under way.

He said the ferry sank because of a technical problem, and that there were not many boats in the area to rescue people.

"We have pulled out 45 bodies and the number could rise," Col Khalil said.

He added that more than 80 people were on the ferry when the accident occurred.

Another Civil Defence official said 12 people were rescued.

The river's level was high because of a rainy season that brought more precipitation than previous years.

Nowruz, or the Persian new year, dates back to 1700 BC and incorporates Zoroastrian traditions.

It is celebrated across territories that once made up the ancient Persian empire, stretching from the Middle East to Central Asia.

Iraqi forces drove the Islamic State group from Mosul in 2017 after a devastating campaign that left entire neighbourhoods in ruins.

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