Iraq Dam On Verge of Collapse, Putting Millions in Path of Destruction

There is a dam on the brink of collapse in Iraq, and its future is just unsteady as its foundation.

The Mosul Dam, which is located 25 miles north of Mosul, is located right in the middle of ISIS territory. Known as the most dangerous dam in the world, this structure has been the source of contention between occupying forces for years. Not only does the dam regulate the flow of drinkable water to the city, it is in an area populated with millions of Iraqis.

Since the rise of ISIS in the region, the Mosul Dam has been the site of many battles between the Islamic extreme state and Kurdish forces. The dam has switched hands between the two opposing groups, and officials are concerned that if it is not taken care of properly during the battles, millions of innocent locals are at risk.

Built back in 1984, the Mosul Dam has not been structurally safe since before construction. Despite warnings from Italian and German engineers that the soil — full of limestone, gypsum, and clay — wasn’t stable enough to hold such a massive structure, Saddam Hussein commissioned the project anyway. Because of the vulnerable soil, workers have had to work endlessly to pump cement in the dam’s foundation.

The cement mixture is meant to fix cracks in the structure, and while an electrochemical fatigue sensor system can detect cracks in the field as small as 0.01 inches in an actual structure, the cracks in the dam’s foundation can be seen by the naked eye. Plus it seems that no matter how quickly the workers pour, the cracks form just as fast.

If the cracks go unattended, the dam could burst — and could wipe out Mosul. A 100-foot high wave of water would run down the Tigris river for over 100 miles, and the city would be submerged in less than three hours. Four days after rupture, the wave would reach Baghdad, a city with a population of six million.

For now, the Iraqis in the path of destruction are living with constant fear that in case the dam goes a few days without concrete, one crack can cause an explosion of immeasurable means.

Azzam Alwash, an Iraqi-American civil engineer who works on the dam, explains the cause for worry. He says to the New Yorker, “If there is a breach in the dam, there will be no warning. It’s a nuclear bomb with an unpredictable fuse.”

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