Friday 19 January 2018

'1.5 million Iraqis face tsunami if Mosul dam fails' - US

The banks of the Mosul Dam on the Tigris River in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) northwest of Baghdad. Reuters
The banks of the Mosul Dam on the Tigris River in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) northwest of Baghdad. Reuters

Raf Sanchez in Washington

Iraq's Mosul Dam faces "unprecedented" risk of a "catastrophic failure" that would unleash a wave of water which could flatten cities and kill hundreds of thousands within hours, the US has said.

The American government issued an unusually stark warning of the horrors that face Iraq if the dam gives way, describing a "tsunami-like wave" that would crush nearly a third of the country.

Iraq's power grid could be entirely knocked out and parts of major cities would be underwater for weeks, the US said.

The Iraqi government would be unable to direct an evacuation because Isil still controls much of the territory near the dam and so people need to prepare to evacuate on their own, the US said.

The dam was built in 1984 but has fallen into severe disrepair over decades of dictatorship, war and instability in Iraq. The government has struggled to convince foreign companies to take up a contract to maintain the dam as fighting with Isil rages nearby.

The US said Iraq's government should begin setting up an emergency notification system to warn the roughly 1.5 million people in the flood path.

"Mosul Dam faces a serious and unprecedented risk of catastrophic failure with little warning," the US said. "A catastrophic breach of Iraq's Mosul Dam would result in severe loss of life, mass population displacement, and destruction of the majority of the infrastructure within the path of the projected floodwave."

The dam is upstream from Mosul, which is Iraq's second largest city and has been under Isil control since June 2014, but the dam was soon recaptured by Peshmerga and other foreign forces.

Parts of the city could be under 13 metres of water within hours of a dam breach, the US said, giving residents little time to flee.

The flood water would probably reach Baghdad within three days and bring chaos to the Iraqi capital with "increased health hazards, limited to no mobility, and losses of homes, buildings, and services". (© Daily Telegraph London)

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