Iraqi engineers involved in building the Mosul dam 30 years ago have warned that the risk of its imminent collapse and the consequent death toll could be even worse than reported.
They pointed out on Tuesday that pressure on the dam’s compromised structure was building up rapidly as winter snows melted and more water flowed into the reservoir, bringing it up to its maximum capacity, while the sluice gates normally used to relieve that pressure were jammed shut.
The Iraqi engineers also said the failure to replace machinery or assemble a full workforce more than a year after Islamic State temporarily held the dam means that the chasms in the porous rock under the dam were getting bigger and more dangerous every day. A contract with an Italian construction firm for carrying out urgent repairs has yet to be signed, but behind-the-scenes negotiations with Baghdad continue.
The engineers warned that potential loss of life from a sudden catastrophic collapse of the Mosul dam could be even greater than the 500,000 officially estimated, as they said many people could die in the resulting mass panic, with a 20-metre-high flood wave hitting the city of Mosul and then rolling on down the Tigris valley through Tikrit and Samarra to Baghdad.
One of the Iraqi engineers, now living in Europe, described as “ridiculous” the Iraqi government’s emergency policy of telling local people to move 6km (3.5 miles) from the river banks. Read more