A recent study by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s in-house science service, says that over 6 million people would be affected by floods in the event of a failure of the Mosul dam in Iraq.
According to the study, the city of Mosul would be wiped out within just a few hours by flood waters up to 25 metres deep. A flood wave of 8 metres would reach Baghdad within just a few days.
The dam of Mosul on the Tigris river in northern Iraq is the largest in the country and holds around 11 square km of water.
During the recent conflict, maintenance has again been disrupted and signs at the dam have triggered renewed concerns. As a result, the government of Iraq has contracted the Italian engineering company Trevi to undertake vital remedial work on the dam.
The JRC study focuses on a scenario where the dam is 26% destroyed, the level of the lake is at its maximum value of 330m, and most of the lake’s water is allowed to flow out fast.
Within just a matter of hours, most of the city of Mosul and it surroundings would be wiped out by a massive flood wave that could reach the city within just 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The floodwave will attain heights of more than 20 metres in around 3 hours and its maximum height of 26 metres after 6 hours.
An area housing about 180,000 people, almost 10% of the city’s population, would be exposed to a floodwave of more than 10 metres, thus risking complete annihilation.
The report says that residents of Mosul would need to evacuate a distance of at least 4 km away from the river to avoid the flood damage.
Downstream and Baghdad
The study says that the water will continue downstream retaining significant heights for some time.
A total of more than 500 000 people (including Mosul) would be exposed to floodwaves of more than 5 metres in height.
Water could reach the capital Baghdad after about 3 and a half days, with a maximum water height of 8m and a mean of around 2m.
On its way downstream the flood wave would affect a total of about 6 million people, close to one sixth of the country’s population. An area of 7,200 square km would be inundated, with a huge economic and social cost.