Deal signed to repair Iraq dam at risk of collapsing

Unstable structure near northern Islamic State-held city of Mosul

Members of the Hashid Shaabi Shia  milita gather in the west of Samarra, in the desert of Anbar, as they prepare to depart for Mosul to fight against Islamic State. Photograph: Reuters

Members of the Hashid Shaabi Shia milita gather in the west of Samarra, in the desert of Anbar, as they prepare to depart for Mosul to fight against Islamic State. Photograph: Reuters

 

Iraq has signed a deal with an Italian company to repair and maintain the country’s largest dam near the northern, Islamic State-held city of Mosul.

The Mosul dam is in danger of a possibly catastrophic collapse.

Italy has said it plans to send 450 troops to protect the site of dam, which is 3.6 km (2.2 miles) long and close to territory held by Islamic State militants in the country’s north.

The Italian foreign ministry confirmed that the €273 million contract had been signed. The agreement followed talks in New York between Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and US and Iraqi officials, the ministry said in a statement.

Mosul dam has suffered from structural flaws since its construction in the 1980s and a collapse would unleash a wall of water down the heavily populated Tigris River valley.

The Iraqi government says it is taking precautions against such a scenario but has sought to play down the risk, with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday describing the likelihood of a breach as “extremely small”.

Islamic State militants seized the dam in August 2014, raising fears they might blow it up and send a huge wave on to Mosul and other downstream cities including Baghdad which could kill hundreds of thousands of people.

The dam was recaptured two weeks later by Iraqi government forces backed by US-led coalition air strikes, but the United States has said that disruption of maintenance operations has increased the likelihood of a breach

Reuters