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US cautions against 'catastrophic' Mosul dam collapse

10 Mar 2016 | By Vaneet Randhawa

The United States pressed governments across the globe to promptly mobilize to avert a "humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions" from the likely collapse of Iraq's Mosul dam.

US Ambassador Samantha Power held a meeting with Iraq's UN Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim to understand the risk from the potential disaster.

She later called on all UN member states to take urgent action.

In context: The Mosul Dam: Iraq's biggest threat

Iraq's largest, Middle-East's 4th largest dam

The 2.2-mile-long (3.6 kilometer) Mosul Dam, formerly known as Saddam Dam is the largest dam in Iraq and the 4th largest in the Middle-East.

Aug 2014The battle for Iraq's Mosul dam

Iraq's Mosul Dam was captured by ISIL militants on 7 August 2014 pushing back the Kurdish forces from the area.

A series of clashes ensued to retain the dam as US officials saw the fall of the dam as a serious threat.

If unleashed and used as a weapon, the dam could drown the cities downstream.

Mosul was won back on 19 August 2014.

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Faulty foundationsReason for the dam's collapse

The problem with the Mosul dam lay in its faulty foundations.

The bedrock on which it was constructed was made of "gypsum, anhydrite and limestone, each of which is water soluble, hence undermining the dam's core with growing cavities."

Iraqi authorities have been filling these holes under the dam with a mixture of cement and other additives but more advanced steps were needed.

Implications Implications of a dam collapse

If the Mosul dam collapses it would flood Mosul (with a population of over 600,000) in less than four hours and the city of Baghdad.

A flood could destroy 2/3 of Iraq's primary agricultural croplands.

Furthermore, electricity and clean water supplies would be compromised, leaving "cities uninhabitable for months, and turn much of the country's population into refugees."

An imminent death of almost 500,000 people

In a statement, Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi claimed that a flood from Mosul dam collapse "would flood Mosul under 65 feet (20 m) of water and Baghdad, a city of 7 million, to 15 feet (4.6 m), with an estimated death toll of 500,000."

2 Mar 2016Italian company appointed to fix the dam for $296 million

Italy's Trevi group finalised a €273 million ($296 million) contract to fix the Mosul dam in 18 months.

The Italian government has also promised to station a 450-strong military contingent to guard the area and provide security for the Trevi team.

Trevi said the repair works will involve fixing the dam's unstable foundations and rebuilding damaged bottom outlet tunnels.

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10 Mar 2016US cautions against 'catastrophic' Mosul dam collapse