MOSUL, Iraq — The drawn men waited silently outside the morgue on Saturday for the scream of an approaching ambulance carrying another victim of the devastating raft accident on the Tigris River this past week.
“I am looking for these boys,” said one, Mohammed Thanoon, 23, holding out his phone to show photos of his nephews to anyone who would look.
“This one is Omran Majid,” Mr. Thanoon said as if introducing him to a visitor, showing a slender boy with blue eyes and dark hair. “This is Abdullah Majid,” he said, displaying a photo of a serious-looking child. They were 6 and 11.
Mr. Thanoon and the others awaited word of loved ones whose fates remained unknown after an overloaded pleasure craft carrying people between Mosul’s riverfront and a small island in the middle of the Tigris capsized on Thursday, dumping its passengers into the water and then sinking.
The bodies of 97 people had been found by Saturday, but the morgue director, Dr. Hassan Wafiq, said 60 or more people were most likely still missing. While there is little hope that any will be found alive, their families want to at least give them a proper Islamic burial.
Mr. Thanoon’s family has been rocked by the accident. The body of Omran and Abdullah’s brother, 4-year-old Mustapha, was found on Friday; the body of Mr. Thanoon’s 29-year-old sister was brought to the morgue on Thursday after the boat sank.
People had crowded onto the small craft — a raft with flimsy railings and a canopy to keep off the sun — to make the short journey across an arm of the Tigris to the island, home to a picnic ground and small amusement park. On Thursday, the festive crowd was celebrating Nowruz, the Kurdish and Persian New Year.
The river was high and the boat so overloaded it was sitting low in the water as metal cables cranked it across the Tigris. In the middle of the river, one of the cables broke, the raft tipped and the passengers slid in that direction, their weight quickly causing the craft to capsize.
Rescue workers continued to find victims through late Friday, some as far as 25 miles downstream, where the swift current had taken them. Though 40 or more people were rescued, many are still unaccounted for.
The horror of the accident set off angry protests in Mosul on Friday, mostly by young residents who blamed not only the boat’s owners, but also the government, which licensed the raft, and especially the provincial governor, Nawfal Hamadi.
Within a day of the accident, as the toll steadily grew, Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi requested that the Iraqi Parliament relieve Mr. Hamadi of his post.
In a letter to the Parliament, which has the authority to fire Mr. Hamadi, the prime minister cited “negligence” and “shortcomings in carrying out his duties and responsibilities.” Mr. Hamadi has not responded publicly.
Despite Mr. Mehdi’s demand, few people seem satisfied.
By the river, near where the accident occurred, the usually crowded cafes and restaurants were closed on Saturday. Many Mosul citizens came to mourn, even if they had not lost a family member.
A couple of local organizations set up funeral tents, a tradition in Iraq when someone dies so that relatives, friends and neighbors can sit with the bereaved and pay their respects. But these tents were for the citizens of Mosul who have borne so much — a four-year occupation by the Islamic State and now this tragic accident.
Tariq Mohammed Ali, a teacher who two months ago had taken his students to the island for a school trip, said he had been worried about the system used to pull the boats and the number of people being allowed aboard.
He said the cable was “fraying and rusty” and the boat “shaky.” More than 200 people were crowded onto the vessel that day, he said.
“But O.K., the accident happened,” Mr. Ali said. “The problem is they had no equipment to save people. They had just two boats, there were no safety preparations, no safety guard, no life jackets.”
Others in the crowd chimed in, saying corruption and carelessness were at the root of the problem.
“We have to say this was a crime,” said Amar Abdul Karim, 28. “The reason is the corruption: They didn’t give the license for the river boats to the right person. The Mosul citizens are being sold out for money — why else would you put so many people on the boat?”
The price of a ticket to the island and back was about 80 cents, said several people. With 200 people aboard, each trip would earn about $160.
The boat landing was closed on Saturday and the government officially renamed the island “Martyrs Island” for those who had died.
As evening fell and rain spattered the dust, among those standing or squatting outside the morgue, keeping vigil in case the body of their son, sister, brother or cousin were brought back, there was growing hopelessness.
“This was the fault of the governor and the provincial council,” said Aziz Karim, 60, who had been hoping to find his 20-year-old son, Magid.
“Today no one came here to speak to us — not the governor nor the provincial council members. No one came to ask: What do you need? How can we help you?” he said, gulping back tears, his face creased and tired.
Asked what kind of work he did, Mr. Karim hesitated, then answered as he turned away: “I am the father of one who is missing.”
Orignially published in NYT.