What if the Mosul Dam collapses?

An Iraqi soldier stands guard at the Mosul Dam
The Mosul Dam was retaken from Daesh in 2014, but structural damage remains and crews must work 24 hours a day filling in cavities in its foundation (source: dpa)
  • The Mosul Dam is dangerously close to collapsing
  • Its failure could kill hundreds of thousands and wipe out vital Iraqi infrastructure
  • The Iraqi government seems woefully unprepared for this possibility
  • The calamity would cause another wave of migration into Europe

Though it is often overlooked, there is a risk to Iraq and the Middle East that could bring drastic upheaval to the geopolitics of the region: the potential collapse of the Mosul Dam. The structure, the biggest dam in Iraq and the fourth-largest in the Middle East, lies 45 kilometers northwest of the city of Mosul and its 2 million inhabitants. It is built on water-soluble gypsum that some experts say could cave in at any moment. Crews must work 24 hours a day to fill the cavities that are constantly forming within the foundations.

Current models forecast that if the dam collapses, its reservoir, known as Lake Dahuk, would empty out, reaching the city of Mosul in the form of 20-meter waves within four hours. An estimated 500,000 to 1.5 million people would be killed.

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