By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis has expressed his grief for the loss of life caused by the sinking of a ferry in the Tigris River near the Iraqi city of Mosul.
In a telegramme signed on his behalf by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Pope said he is deeply saddened to learn of the accident and expressed his prayerful solidarity with those who mourn.
At least 94 people, including many families, died Thursday when a ferry overloaded with passengers celebrating the Kurdish New Year and Mother’s Day, capsized in the Tigris River near Mosul.
In his message, the Pope said he “commends the deceased to the mercy of the Almighty, and prays for the local authorities and emergency personnel.” He concluded invoking the divine blessings of healing, strength and consolation upon the whole Iraqi nation.
Authorities said many of the victims were women and children who could be seen struggling to swim against a strong current as the ferry went down.
As people continue to wait for news of loved ones, the death toll from the accident is expected to rise.
The head of the Civil Defense in the northern Nineveh province said the usually tame Tigris is running high this time of year and has swelled further after a rainy season that brought more precipitation than in previous years.
However he explained the ferry sank because of a technical problem and that there weren't many boats in the area to rescue people.
Authorities said more than 80 people were on the ferry when it sank. Unofficial sources said the number of people on the boat was much higher.
Up-hill struggle for the people of Mosul
The city of Mosul was devastated by the war against the so-called Islamic State group, which occupied the city for three years. Iraqi forces drove the militants from Mosul in 2017 after a grueling campaign that left entire neighborhoods in ruins, and residents are still struggling to rebuild.