The Mosul Dam faces a “serious and unprecedented risk of catastrophic failure” with little warning, the US Embassy in Iraq has said.
The Embassy warned that if the 11.1bn.m3 dam collapses some areas could be inundated by up to 21m of water within hours.
It says following the so-called Islamic State attack on the facility in August 2014 and the subsequent disruption of maintenance operations, there is now an “unprecedented” risk of collapse and it is urging citizens to make an evacuation plan. The Iraq government is also making an emergency notification plan.
The government of Iraq, under Prime Minister Abadi, is starting emergency maintenance operations on the dam, awarding the contract to Italian engineering company Trevi. Initially there will be 18 months of emergency works. However, there is concern that any collapse would cause significant flooding in low-lying areas along the Tigris River Valley from Mosul to Baghdad with cities such as Tikrit, Samarra and Baghdad affected.
Although the US statement says there is no specific information that indicates a breach, it says it is acting out of an ”abundance of caution”, saying fast evacuation is the best way to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the flood path.
The four-year construction of the dam was completed in 1984 under the rule of Saddam Hussein. It was filled for the first time in the spring of 1985.
According to a report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction to the US Congress in 2007, the dam was built without the grouting work needed to control seepage through the dam foundations. Instead, the designer chose to build a grouting gallery that would allow grouting to continue after the dam began operating.