MOSUL, Iraq, March 3 (UPI) -- Some 1.5 million Iraqis could be killed if the Mosul Dam collapses, a former Iraqi government engineer warned Thursday.
asrat Adamo, who was the Iraqi Irrigation Ministry's chief engineer when the 2 mile-long dam was constructed 30 years ago, told NBC News a $296 million rehabilitation and maintenance project, announced Wednesday, may not come in time to prevent the collapse of the dam. A collapse would flood cities downstream on the Tigris River. The city of Mosul could be inundated and Baghdad flooded.
The Iraqi government's response thus far is to recommend Mosul residents retreat to higher ground if the dam bursts.
"All the figures quote between 500,000 to 1.5 million people in the path, but at least a few hundred thousand people will be killed immediately. The flood wave is so fast that it would arrive to Mosul in two hours and the city would be under 25 meters [82 feet] of water," Adamo said, referring to information in a 1984 report.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a similar warning, earlier in the week, calling the potential for a disaster "serious and unprecedented."
"We have no specific information that indicates when a breach might occur," the statement said.
Iraqi engineers involved in building the dam warned pressure was building on the structure as winter snow melts and fills its reservoir, while sluice gates to relieve the pressure are jammed shut. The failure to mount a workforce or replace machinery after the dam was taken back from the Islamic State in 2014 is accelerating damage in porous rock beneath the dam, they said.
"The machines for grouting have been looted. There is no cement supply. They can do nothing. It is going from bad to worse, and it is urgent. All we can do is hold our hearts," Adamo added.