U.S. embassy urges evacuation from Mosul as dam catastrophe looms

Special to WorldTribune.com

The U.S. embassy in Iraq has recommended the evacuation of Mosul out of fear that the Mosul Dam is near collapse.

“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 Iraqis living in the most dangerous part of the flood path in the event of a breach,” the U.S. embassy said in a statement posted to its website on Feb. 28.

Work is under way to strengthen Mosul Dam. /Reuters
Work is under way to strengthen Mosul Dam. /Reuters

“We have no specific information that indicates when a breach might occur,” but evacuating the city could help save up to 1.5 million lives should the dam suffer a catastrophic failure, the embassy said.

Officials say the collapse of Iraq’s largest dam would unleash a wave that would devastate the city of Mosul and flood much of the capital Baghdad.

In a breach scenario, the embassy said 500,000 to 1.47 million Iraqis living in areas most exposed to the flood wave along the Tigris River would probably not survive if they were not evacuated. Residents of Mosul and Tikrit would have to move five or six kilometers (3-3.5 miles) away from the riverbank to reach safety, the embassy said.

Those living farther downstream in Samarra, where the flood wave could overwhelm a smaller dam, would in some cases have to flee as far as 16 kilometers (10 miles).

Many areas most affected by the flood wave are either controlled by Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) or contested, making a state-directed evacuation unlikely. ISIL briefly seized the Mosul Dam in 2014 and weakened the already flawed structure.

The dam is currently protected by Kurdish peshmerga forces while Italian firm Trevi has been selected to carry out crucial repair work.