1.5 Million Iraqis in Danger of Being Killed if Mosul Dam Fails

Mosul Dam on the Tigris River, which is around 30 miles north of the Iraqi city of Mosul. (PHOTO CREDIT: Safin Hamed / AFP - Getty Images, file)
Mosul Dam on the Tigris River, which is around 30 miles north of the Iraqi city of Mosul. (PHOTO CREDIT: Safin Hamed / AFP – Getty Images, file)

Almost 1.5 million Iraqis are in danger of being killed by a wall of water if the dismally maintained Mosul dam collapses, a former senior government engineer who was once in charge of the country’s dam system warned on Thursday.

While the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has sought to downplay the risk of a collapse of the country’s largest dam, earlier this week it advised many residents of the heavily populated Tigris River valley to move at least 3.5 miles away from its riverbanks.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said a collapse of the dam in the north of country would be “serious and unprecedented.” Some 500,000 and 1.47 million Iraqis would “probably would not survive” the wave, while water could reach depths of 45 feet in the nearby city of Mosul, it said in a statement.

Cities downstream on the Tigris River such as Tikrit, Samarra and the Iraqi capital Baghdad could be inundated with smaller, but still significant levels in the event of a breach, U.S. officials warned on Sunday.

Mosul was conquered by ISIS around two years ago and is the militant group’s major Iraqi stronghold.

On Wednesday, the Iraqi government signed a 18-month contract worth around $296 million with Italian engineering company Trevi for the upkeep of the facility. Mahdi Rasheed, the general director of the Iraqi Dams Company, told NBC News that Trevi would start sending workers and equipment within days but it would take between two and three months for the repairs to start.

Nasrat Adamo, who was the chief engineer at Iraq’s Irrigation Ministry which oversaw the building and upkeep of the country’s dams, told NBC News he was afraid Trevi’s work would not come soon enough.

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SOURCE: NBC News, F. Brinley Bruton

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