'Tiny chance' of catastrophic Mosul Dam collapse, says minister

'Tiny chance' of catastrophic Mosul Dam collapse, says minister
2 min read
07 February, 2016
There is only a "one in a thousand" chance of Mosul Dam collapsing and drowning hundreds of thousands, Iraq's water minister said, after US officials warned of possible catastrophic failure.
A US military report called the dam the 'most dangerous in the world' [Getty]
Iraq's minister of water resources has played down warnings that the Mosul Dam could collapse, saying there was only a "one in a thousand" chance of failure.

The US military has warned that a collapse of the 3.6km hydroelectric dam - located near Islamic State group-held territory in the country's north - would be catastrophic.

An Italian company has been awarded a contract to make urgent repairs to the dam which has suffered from structural flaws since its construction in the 1980s and requires constant grouting to maintain structural integrity.

"The looming danger to Mosul Dam is one in a thousand. This risk level is present in all the world's dams," Mohsen al-Shammari told a local TV station.

"The talk about, God forbid, a large wave that a collapse could create is unlikely, because the dam would have to be at full capacity, when it is currently operating at a fourth of that - and that is in the extremely unlikely event of a collapse," Shammari said.

He said one solution was to build a concrete support wall 150 to 200 metres deep. Workers are already removing between five and six tonnes of concrete a day, at a cost of $6 million a day, he added.

The Mosul Dam is now understood to have been built on an unstable foundation of soils that erode when exposed to water, and a lapse in maintenance after IS seized it in 2014 weakened the already flawed structure.

The dam has long been in danger of collapse, which US officials have warned could send a huge wave crashing into IS-held Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, about 40 kilometres away.

"Iraq is on the brink of a massive humanitarian and environmental disaster because of the dam. It could collapse as soon as April because at that time of year it will be under pressure from rain and thawing snow," an Iraqi official told The New Arab.

IS militants controlling swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq seized Mosul Dam in August 2014, raising fears they might blow it up and unleash a wall of water on Mosul and Baghdad that could kill hundreds of thousands along the heavily populated Tigris River valley.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters recaptured the dam two weeks later, with the help of coalition airstrikes and Iraqi government forces.

About 450 Italian troops will be deployed to protect the Italian Trevi Group contracted to repair the dam.