Posted: 3:19 am EDT
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On February 29, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a Security Message to U.S. citizens in the country on planning for the possible collapse of the Mosul Dam, formerly known as Saddam Dam and the largest dam in Iraq.
The disruption of maintenance operations in 2014 increased the risk of the Mosul Dam collapsing. The Government of Iraq (GOI) is preparing to initiate emergency maintenance operations to reduce the risk of failure.
A dam failure would cause significant flooding and interruption of essential services in low-lying areas along the Tigris River Valley from Mosul to Baghdad. Some models estimate that Mosul could be inundated by as much as 70 feet (21 meters) of water within hours of the breach. Downriver cities such as Tikrit, Samarra, and Baghdad could be inundated with smaller, but still significant levels of flooding within 24-72 hours of the breach.
We have no specific information that indicates when a breach might occur, but out of an abundance of caution, we would like to underscore that prompt evacuation offers the most effective tool to save lives of the hundreds of thousands of people living in the most dangerous part of the flood path in the event of a breach. Proper preparation could save many lives.
The Telegraph reported in December last year that an Italian company, Trevi, won a $2 billion (£1.3 billion) contract to repair the dam and that the Italian government was prepared to send 500 troops to guard the Italian company’s employees who will be tasked to do repair work. On February 29, a company spokesman confirmed to the Guardian that the contract still had not been signed and gave no expected signature date.
On February 28, the US Embassy in Baghdad also released a fact sheet on the dam:
The floodwave would resemble an in-land tidal wave between Mosul and Samarra’, and would sweep downstream anything in its path, including bodies, buildings, cars, unexploded ordinances, hazardous chemicals, and waste; less than 6 inches of moving water is strong enough to knock a person off his feet, and 16 inches of moving water can carry away most automobiles. Flooding south of Samarra would resemble that of Hurricane Katrina, with standing water that pervades much of Baghdad for weeks to months. As floodwaters recede, mud and waste-covered remnants of previous infrastructure will be left behind.
> Flood water could reach depths greater than 45 feet in some parts of Mosul City in as little as one to four hours, giving residents little time to flee.
> Flood water could reach Tikrit in one to two days.
> Flood water could reach Baghdad in three to four days and have depths of up to 33 feet in the river channel.
> Some parts of Baghdad would be flooded, which could include Baghdad International Airport.
Read in full here:
Embassy Baghdad notes that it would be “extremely limited in its ability to assist in the event of a crisis” and encouraged U.S. citizens in Iraq, especially those who reside in the floodplain of the Tigris River to develop their personal contingency plans.