Statement on Mosul Dam Emergency Preparedness
February 28, 2016
The Embassy of the United States of America is today releasing a fact sheet on the Mosul Dam, offering a detailed overview of the risk of a potential failure and, as a contingency, recommendations for how residents in Iraq should respond in the event of an emergency.
Mosul Dam faces a serious and unprecedented risk of catastrophic failure with little warning. Recognizing the gravity of this challenge, the Iraqi government under Prime Minister Abadi’s leadership is preparing to take actions to mitigate the potential threat of the dam’s failure, particularly following the Da’esh attack on the facility in August 2014. We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to undertake all necessary measures to rapidly finalize and implement a contract in order to address the structural integrity of Mosul Dam. We would also like to acknowledge the considerable efforts of the Italian government in supporting ongoing efforts to stabilize the dam.
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 Iraqis living in the most dangerous part of the flood path in the event of a breach. Proper preparation could save many lives. Therefore, in partnership with the Iraqi government’s early warning and public information efforts with respect to Mosul Dam, in the fact sheet we are providing recommendations to residents living near the Tigris River, to include:
- Residents of Mosul, where the consequences would be the most severe, probably could avoid the initial flood wave by moving at least 6 kilometers from the current banks of the Tigris and avoiding all rivers and wadis feeding into the Tigris.
- Residents of Tikrit probably could reach safety by moving at least 5 kilometers from the riverbank.
- Samarra residents west of the riverbank probably could move roughly 6.5 kilometers away from the river bank to reach safety. Samarra residents on the east side of the river probably would need to flee farther — potentially around 16.5 kilometers — to avoid being cut off by multiple streams of water when the major irrigation canal floods.
- Some parts of Baghdad would also be flooded, which could include Baghdad International Airport.
We are very encouraged that Prime Minister Abadi is already working with the United Nations to develop a detailed emergency notification plan and ensure that adequate infrastructure is in place to alert residents in the event of a breach. Just as buildings have fire alarms, there must be a way to alert people immediately in the event of a breach so they have time to respond. We have been providing some technical assistance to the government that we believe will augment this Iraqi-led effort and contribute to general public emergency preparedness, including for the citizens of Mosul.
The United States will continue to support Prime Minister Abadi and the Iraqi government in their efforts to address this critical challenge.
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