The US military is gearing up to deal with the catastrophic consequences of a potential collapse of Mosul dam in northern Iraq, the top US general in the Arab country says.
US Army Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, head of the US-led coalition against Daesh (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, said Thursday that Iraqi authorities are aware of "the potential" for the collapse and the need for constant grouting of the hydroelectric dam’s foundation to prevent it.
He said the Pentagon and the Iraqi government were working on a plan to protect Iraqi civilians from the impact of a burst, which would send a surge of water down the heavily populated Tigris river valley.
"The likelihood of the dam collapsing is something we are trying to determine right now... all we know is when it goes, it's going to go fast and that's bad," MacFarland told reporters in Baghdad.
"If this dam was in the United States, we would have drained the lake behind it. We would have taken that dam out of commission," he noted.
The dam, formerly known as Saddam Dam, fell to Daesh in August 2014, raising fears the terror group might blow it up and unleash a wall of water on Mosul and Baghdad that could kill hundreds of thousands of civilians.
According to a recent assessment by the US State Department, up to 500,000 people could be killed and over one million rendered homeless should Iraq's biggest dam collapse
Kurdish fighters recaptured the dam two weeks later but according to coalition spokesman US Army Colonel Steve Warren the threat of a collapse never went away since ISIL militants had stolen equipment and chased away technicians.
"There was a steady grouting schedule that had been maintained for a long time. When that stopped, obviously the deterioration of the dam increased accordingly," he said.
Baghdad is finalizing a contract with an Italian company called the Trevi Group, to upgrade the 3.6-km (2.2-mile) long dam, which has suffered from structural flaws since it was built in the 1980s.
The dam has a main 750 megawatts power station and is ranked as the fourth largest dam in the Middle East.