(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
MOSUL, Iraq - The Iraqi man laid the body of his wife, wrapped in a black shroud, gently on the bow of a small wooden boat and held onto it as a second man rowed slowly to pick up the man's three children standing a few meters away.
The two teenage girls and young boy climbed in, careful not to disturb the balance, for the crossing taking their mother, killed in an air strike this week, to the east bank of the Tigris River.
This crossing is no ancient rite, however.
It is an extra hardship heaped on the family by the flooding of the Tigris and the disassembly of the last pontoon bridge linking the two sides of Mosul, where US-backed Iraqi forces have been fighting to oust the Islamic State militants who seized the city in 2014.
Loading up everything from clothes and food to injured or dead relatives, hundreds of families exhausted by war have been crossing the river on small, rickety fishing boats capable of holding only five or six people.
Many have been leaving the Musherfa district of western Mosul after U.S.-backed Iraqi forces took it from Islamic State on Friday, hoping to reach the relative safety of the eastern banks of the river.