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There are fresh fears today about the imminent collapse of the Mosel dam in Iraq
The United States has warned its citizens to be ready to leave Iraq in the event of what it has said could be a catastrophic collapse of the country's largest hydro-electric dam near Mosul.Iraqi officials have sought to play down the risk but Washington urged its citizens to make contingency plans now.A US security message cited estimates that Mosul, which is northern Iraq's largest city and under control of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters, could be inundated by as much as 21 metres of water within hours of the breach.Cities downstream on the Tigris River such as Tikrit, Samarra and the Iraqi capital Baghdad could be inundated with smaller, but still significant levels within 24-72 hours."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 people," the security message said.Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Sunday precautions were being taken, but described the likelihood of such a scenario as "extremely small".ISIL seized the dam in August 2014, raising fears they might blow it up and unleash a wall of water on Mosul and Baghdad that could kill hundreds of thousands.The dam was recaptured two weeks later by Iraqi government forces backed by air strikes from a US-led coalition, but the disruption of maintenance operations has increased the likelihood of a breach.An Italian company has been awarded a contract to make urgent repairs to the dam, which has suffered from structural flaws since its construction in the 1980s and requires constant grouting to maintain structural integrity.Hussein Hamad, the chief engineer of the Mosul dam maintenance department, told Al Jazeera last month the dam is not 100 percent secure."During the 1980s, foreign companies used to maintain the dam through drilling and [by] reinforcing the dam. That process was handed over to us afterwards," Hamad said."We are given cement and a number of excavators, but we need spare parts for the machines we are using for the ongoing maintenance process."Iraq's minister of water resources said earlier this month there was only a "one in a thousand" chance the dam would collapse, and that the solution was to build a new dam or install a deep concrete support wall.
Feb 14th 2016
If this Iraqi dam collapses, half a million people could die.
BAGHDAD — If breached, it could unleash a 180-foot-high wave down the Tigris River basin and drown more than half a million people, with floodwaters reaching as far as the Iraqi capital, about 280 miles to the south.
The collapse of Mosul Dam would be catastrophic for Iraq.
The dam has been called the most dangerous in the world for the past decade. But recent assessments by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say it is at “significantly higher risk” of failing than previously thought.
The dam’s structural problems became evident as soon as the reservoir behind it was filled in 1985. It is built on layers of clay and gypsum, a soft mineral that dissolves when it comes into contact with water, and the dam immediately began seeping. Since then, around 100,000 tons of grouting have been poured into the structure to prevent it from collapsing.
However, even this stopgap measure has been disrupted by the Islamic State, which briefly seized the dam in the summer of 2014. The militants still hold the nearby city of Mosul, their de facto capital in Iraq. Political wrangling and a financial crisis in Iraq are also complicating repair work.
The hydroelectric dam almost certainly has an “unprecedented level of untreated voids” in its foundation, according to the Army Corps of Engineers’ Jan. 30 report, which was made pubic this week when it was submitted to the Iraqi parliament. The monitoring team has identified “significant signs of distress,” it added.
When the Islamic State took control of the dam, a rigid daily routine of pouring grout into the structure to stop it from collapsing was missed for six weeks, while logistical issues have plagued the process ever since.
Meanwhile, a government decision to deprive Islamic State-held Mosul of electricity by blocking the flow of water put additional pressure on the dam as water levels rose.
Top-level U.S. officials have voiced their growing concerns to the Iraqi government, an adviser to the prime minister’s office said. They have regularly invoked Hurricane Katrina, but warned that the devastation could be “a thousand times worse,” the adviser said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is not an official spokesman.
If the dam fails when water levels are high, the flooding would be disastrous. Mosul, about 30 miles to the southeast, would be hit by a 65-foot wall of water and wiped out within four hours, studies have said. Farther downstream, Tikrit is expected to be deluged in 50 feet of water before the torrent bursts another dam at Samarra. Within 48 hours, floods 13 feet deep would reach Baghdad.
Concerns are becoming more acute as Iraqi security forces prepare for an offensive to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State, the adviser said. In recent days, units from the Iraqi army’s 16th Division have arrived in Makhmour, southeast of Mosul, to begin operations in the area, commanders have said.
The adviser said Iraqi security officials, worried that militants may try to sabotage the dam if they think they have lost the city, have drawn up emergency plans. Meanwhile, the use of heavy munitions could put additional pressure on the structure, he said.
“We had to give a warning to these operations to observe the dam, but there shouldn’t be anything nearby,” said Shirouk al-Abayachi, co-chair of the Iraqi parliament’s agriculture and water committee. The situation remains “very dangerous,” she said.
“We don’t have anything that tells us what’s going on under the dam,” she said. “There are sinkholes, but we don’t know how big they are now.”
Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources has played down the threat but was persuaded to reopen the lower gates of the dam to relieve some pressure, even though it meant power was restored to the militant-held city farther south.
The Italian company Trevi recently won a bid to repair the dam and is expected to sign the contract soon. The cost is estimated to be more than $300 million, the adviser said, adding that the expense will likely be covered by the World Bank. But the repair bill comes as Iraq is desperately seeking financial assistance as oil prices hover around $30 a barrel.
Iraq’s water minister, Mohsin al-Shammari, who is politically aligned with the anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, has dismissed U.S. warnings. He said in an interview with an Iraqi television channel that there is only a “one in a thousand” chance the dam will fail. He has criticized the predictions as an excuse for sending more foreign troops to the country; Italy has said it would send 450 soldiers to provide security for the Italian firm.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has stressed the need for the work to begin quickly. Melting snow and more rains are expected to increase pressure on the dam this spring.
History and picture above.
The Bento Rodrigues district is pictured covered with mud after a dam owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd burst in Mariana, Brazil, November 6. A dam holding back waste water from an iron ore mine in Brazil that is owned by Vale and BHP Billiton burst on Thursday, devastating a nearby town with mudslides and leaving officials in the remote region scrambling to assess casualties.Ricardo Moraes/Reuters
At least two people were killed and 30 others injured after two dams collapsed at a Brazilian iron ore mine, officials said on Friday, as rescuers searched for the missing under mud and debris from colossal floods that devastated a village.
Mine operator Samarco's chief executive officer said a tremor in the vicinity of the mine may have caused the dams to burst Thursday afternoon, but that it was too early to establish the exact cause. The company said one of the dead was a mine worker.
Firefighters who rescued 30 injured from the village of Bento Rodrigues put the toll at two dead and said the count was likely to rise as pouring rain slowed their search and mudslides knocked out roads and cell towers. The massive floods hit at least six villages.
"I heard screaming and saw the water coming fast, about 15 to 20 meters high (49-66 feet)," said survivor Antonio Santos, a construction worker who was at home when the dams broke. Bento Rodrigues is 150 km (93 miles) southeast of Belo Horizonte, Brazil's third largest city and the capital of the mining state of Minas Gerais.
"Within 10 minutes the whole lower part of the village was destroyed, about 80 percent of it," he said in a gymnasium crowded with survivors in the nearby city of Mariana.
Santos said he knew of four people who were swept away, including two children and two adults in their 50s.
Firefighters said they did not know if they would find all of those swept away by the wall of water released by the successive bursting of the two dams holding iron ore tailings and waste from the adjacent mine.
Television footage from the scene showed Bento Rodrigues, population 600, devastated by the fast-moving floods that tore off roofs, leveled trees and swept away cars. The floods extended as far as the town of Barra Longa, 80 kilometers (50 miles) away. The town was partially underwater.
Hundreds of families were evacuated from the area after escaping to higher ground, Duarte Junior, the mayor of Mariana, 25 km (16 miles) from the mine, told television channel GloboNews after declaring a state of emergency on Friday morning.
Samarco, a joint venture of BHP Billiton and Vale said it had no date to restart the 30,000-tonne-per-year mine and was evaluating whether to declare force majeure to allow it to break delivery contracts.
The head of emergency planning at Samarco, the joint venture company that runs the mine, told GloboNews of reports of seismic activity in the area in the hour leading up to the incident.
The University of Sao Paulo's seismic center reported four weak tremors near Mariana and the neighboring town of Ouro Preto in the hour before the disaster. The center recorded tremors magnitude 2 to 2.6 before the dams burst, but said it could not say they caused the disaster without more extensive research.
CEO Ricardo Vescovi said Samarco had been working on the drainage system for the dams. On Thursday, there was no sign of a breach immediately after the tremor, he said.
STOCKS, BONDS HIT
The collapse paralyzed operations at the mine, a joint venture between Vale and BHP Billiton, the world's top iron ore miners, and raised fears of an expensive cleanup.
Shares of Vale were off 5.2 percent in Sao Paulo trading and BHP Billiton dropped 5.7 percent in London.
Samarco's 4.125% 2022 dollar bonds dropped by more than 10 points on Friday before recovering slightly. By mid-morning, they were bid at a cash price of 75 cents to the dollar, down from an average of 82 cents to 83 cents earlier in the week, according to MarketAxess data.
Analysts at Clarksons Platou Securities said on Friday that the likelihood of a lengthy stoppage at the Germano mine, which accounts for about one-fifth of seaborne pellet market, could lift iron ore prices. Samarco produces 30 million tonnes per year of pellet, used to make steel.
While Samarco shut down production immediately, it was not clear how long the disaster would keep the mine from operating and what the impact would be on supplies. Iron ores prices were not affected and continued to fall on Friday.
Pellet prices have plunged by one-third this year to their lowest in six years amid a global glut and waning Chinese demand.
Samarco officials said on Friday the Santarém dam in the Germano complex had collapsed along with the rupturing of the Fundão dam on Thursday. The firm said it was too early to know the reasons for the disaster or the extent of carnage.
The dams had valid licenses from environmental authorities, who last inspected them in July, according to Samarco. The reservoirs are composed primarily of sand and inert tailings, a mining waste product of metal filings, it said.
Tailings ponds, masses of finely ground waste rock mixed with water left over from extracting more valuable minerals, can contain harmful chemicals, adding to fears of potential contamination of the nearby Gualaxo do Norte river.
Samarco said there were no chemical elements that were health risks.
Samarco's iron ore is transported down a slurry pipe from Germano to Espirito Santo, where it is turned into pellets and shipped to customers including the Libyan Iron and Steel Co (Lisco), one of North Africa's biggest steelmakers.It was the second major tailings dam disaster in Minas Gerais in 12 years. In 2003, 1.2 billion liters of waste from a tailings dam at a closed cellulose mill broke, flooding local rivers, cutting off fresh-water supplies to more than 600,000 people, and killing fish all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Dams in your area are unlikely to burst, and one bursting is unlikely to be caused by high winds alone but if these winds bring torrential downpours the resulting flood can sometimes overload of the structure, you should check your locality to see if there is a possibility of any danger from such a structure in your area.
If you live in a danger area you should find out who is responsible for issuing warnings on the state of the retaining walls and check if the construction meets modern safety requirements, some of the older ones are not up to modern standards, and also are no longer required, if this is the case you could campaign to have them drained and taken out of service.
Bursts and floods are catastrophic and there is very little you can do to protect yourself, but if you really worry about your situation, and you are frustrated by lack of action you should seriously consider moving to a safer area.
There have been some dramatic bursting events in modern times, mostly on the medium size structures, and when they go the mass of water released is pretty devastating, moving water has tremendous force and only the strongest of structures can resist it.
In the past the destruction of these structures has been used as a weapon of war, as was the case during the Second World War when Britain’s Royal Air force carried out a raid on Germany to destroy the massive retaining walls on the Möhne and Edersee and release the pent up waters onto Germany’s low-lying land, putting many a factory out of commission and disrupting their war efforts.
They had to use specially designed bombs, the bouncing bombs, these bounced along the surface of the water until they struck the concrete wall where they sank and were designed to explode at a predetermined depth, where they would do the most damage, they were invented and designed by a British genius Dr. Barnes Wallace.
This raid is well documented in the history books of the Second World War, the raid was led by a British officer called Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC a decorated British war hero and the 617 squadron, carried out the raid, this squadron will forever be known as the Dam Busters Squadron.
Fortunately with modern communication systems these dangerous situations can be monitored easily and warnings issued by local government, civil defense, police, local radio and television.Home Page - geological - dams
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