Worries over safety of Iraq’s biggest dam

Worries over safety of Iraq’s biggest dam

Washington: The U.S. has warned its citizens in Iraq to prepare evacuation plans, in the event that the country’s largest hydro-electric dam at Mosul collapses, putting millions of lives at risk.

The Mosul Dam on the Tigris river, is located around 50 km north of the Iraqi city of Mosul. In the event of its collapse, Baghdad could be inundated within 24 hours of a potential breach

According to latest reports, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has warned that the Mosul dam faces “unprecedented risk of catastrophic failure with little warning,” a risk compounded by inadequate maintenance, but added that there was “no specific information that indicates when a breach might occur.”

“Mosul could be inundated by as much as 70 feet of water within hours of the breach,” a Monday security message read, adding that the capital Baghdad — which is home to about 6.5 million people — could be inundated within 24 to 72 hours.

If that were to happen, up to half a million people could be killed, but Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described the risk of a breach as “extremely small” and said precautions were being taken, reports Reuters.

Built three decades ago in northern Iraq, the dam holds 11 billion cubic meters of water from the Tigris River, which travels south through Mosul and Baghdad. In August 2014 the extremist group ISIS briefly held the structure, prompting fears they might destroy the dam or cut off the water supply to the south.

An Italian company, Trevi Group, now oversees repairs to the dam, which is built on an unstable foundation and requires regular grouting.