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Iraqi PM orders to form crises cell after Mosul ferry sinking

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BAGHDAD, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Friday ordered the formation of a crises cell comprises of a university professor and two military commanders to temporarily run Iraq's northern province of Nineveh following the ferry sinking incident.

A statement by the prime minister's office said that a crises cell is formed "because of the exceptional conditions experienced by the province of Nineveh, especially after the painful incident of the sinking ferry which caused large numbers of victims."

The cell consists of the President of Nineveh University Mzahim al-Khayyat, commander of Nineveh Operations Commander and Nineveh's police chief, the statement said.

The cell, which is linked immediately to the Commander-in-Chief of Iraqi forces (Abdul Mahdi), will be responsible "to follow the executive tasks in the province until Nineveh Provincial Council takes its (awaiting) decisions in the light of the ongoing investigations" in the ferry sinking incident, according to the statement.

It said that the cell is also tasked to punish those who were behind the painful incident and to approve the necessary compensations to the victims.

Abdul Mahdi also called on the political blocs and media outlets "not to be dragged into the atmosphere of escalation and exchange of accusations" which could harm the people of Nineveh province and Iraq as well, it added.

Earlier in the day, the ministry of health said that the death toll of the ferry sinking incident has risen to 96, while 60 other people were rescued including 19 children.

The incident took place on Thursday afternoon when a ferryboat carrying dozens of people capsized while crossing from the bank of the river to a small tourist island called Um al Rabeein in northern Mosul, some 400 km north of the capital Baghdad.

According to a civil defense source, the ferryboat owned by a tourism office was overloaded with more than 100 people, while the ferryboat is originally designed to carry some 30 people.

The search operation is expected to continue in the coming days.

The ferry incident was the single most deadly incident in Mosul since the city was liberated from extremist Islamic State (IS) militants late in 2017.

Angry residents of Mosul blamed negligence by the local government for the accident, as they believe that corruption and mismanagement are the reason for what happened.

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