Iraq's Mosul Dam could face catastrophic collapse

Iraq's Mosul Dam could face catastrophic collapse
The Iraqi government and US-led coalition are gearing up to deal with the potential catastrophic collapse of Iraq's Mosul Dam, warning that it puts the lives of millions in danger.
3 min read
28 January, 2016
A report called the dam the 'most dangerous in the world' [Getty]
The top US general in Iraq has warned of the potential collapse of Mosul Dam in the country's north, saying such an event could prove "catastrophic."

The US-led coalition is still determining the likelihood the hydroelectric dam could collapse but has developed a contingency plan alongside the Iraqi government, said US Army Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland.

Built in the early 1980s, the dam is made largely of earth and situated on soft mineral foundations, which are easily dissolved by water.

A report in 2006 by the US Army Corps of Engineers called it "the most dangerous dam in the world" because of its propensity to erode.

"The likelihood of the dam collapsing is something we are trying to determine right now. All we know is when it goes, it's going to go fast and that's bad," MacFarland told reporters in Baghdad.

"If this dam was in the United States, we would have drained the lake behind it. We would have taken that dam out of commission," he added.

The general said the Pentagon and the Iraqi government are working on a plan to protect Iraqi civilians from the impact of a burst, which would send a surge of water down the heavily populated Tigris river valley.

       The dam used to supply electricity and water to much of Iraq [Getty]
Since the Islamic State [IS] group extended its territory across Iraq in summer 2014, maintenance teams have at times struggled to gain access to the site.

IS seized the dam in July of that year, but Iraqi forces and Kurdish fighters, with air support from the coalition, took it back within weeks.

The dam is the largest in Iraq and the fourth-largest in the Middle East.

It once supplied electricity and water to much of the country, but now only operates at partial capacity.

"If the dam collapsed it would create an eight-metre-high wave that would cover Mosul in less than an hour and then Baghdad the same day before reaching southern cities with less force," advisor to Iraq's ministry of water resources, Mohammad al-Janabi, told The New Arab.
The dam's collapse would 'swallow up' entire cities, putting the lives of millions of Iraqis in danger
An Iraqi official said the dam's collapse would "swallow up" entire cities, putting the lives of millions of Iraqis in danger.

Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi formed an emergency committee to investigate reports that new cracks had developed in the dam.

The 2006 report by the corps said the dam's collapse would put Mosul - Iraq's second-largest city - under 20 metres of water and kill an estimated half a million people.

On Wednesday, the US-led coalition killed several IS leaders in air raids in Nineveh province.

The air raids targeted IS sites and military headquarters and were reportedly a prelude to the upcoming battle to recapture Mosul from the Islamic militants.