Iraq’s parliament has sacked the governor of the northern province of Nineveh where more than 100 people died when a ferry capsized three days ago, triggering grief and anger among residents.
Most of those who drowned in the Tigris River near Mosul were women and children celebrating the Nowruz holiday and Mother’s Day on Thursday.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Saturday called on legislators to fire Nineveh Provincial Governor Nawfel Akoub, citing “negligence and concrete failings”.
His two deputies were also fired during a vote in the national assembly.
Parliament declared those killed in the tragedy “martyrs”, allowing their families to receive financial compensation and paving the way for court proceedings.
At least 16 people have been arrested as part of an investigation into the sinking of the ferry, a security official said.
Authorities said 63 people were still listed as missing.
On Sunday, dozens of students held a silent protest on the campus of the University of Mosul, dressed in black to mourn the victims.
One of them, Abdullah al-Jubburi, told AFP news agency they were demonstrating to demand that “corrupt” politicians and civil servants be replaced.
“The governor and all corrupt officials must be put on trial … We are fed up of being mistreated and marginalised,” said fellow protester Isra Mohammed.
Akoub has already been subjected to the anger of the relatives of the victims, and their supporters, over alleged corruption and cronyism.
When he visited the scene of the tragedy on Friday, stones were thrown at his convoy by protesters demonstrating against perceived corruption and neglect.
Abdul Mahdi, the prime minister, had visited the site on the accident on Thursday when he ordered an inquiry and warned those responsible would be held to account.
Those on board the ferry were on their way to a nearby island. Although there has been no official mention of the cause behind the accident, local residents said it was due to overcrowding, saying the ferry only had space for 50 passengers.
The usually tame Tigris is running high this time of year. The river swelled further after a rainy season that brought more precipitation than in previous years.
The sinking of the ferry was a tragic blow to Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city that is still struggling to overcome the devastation wreaked by fighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) and the US-led coalition.
The armed group captured Mosul in the summer of 2014, making it its main stronghold in Iraq. After US-backed Iraqi forces retook it three years later, in July 2017, much of Mosul was left in ruins.