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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Thursday, August 16, 2018

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ISIS captures Mosul Dam threatens biblical catastrophe

The statement was an apparent biblical reference to Noah's Ark

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ISIS militants are believed to have captured Iraq's largest dam on Thursday, wresting it from the Kurdish Peshmerga's control and over the weekend warned Iraqis that they had a choice between "ISIS or the flood".

The statement was an apparent biblical reference to Noah's Ark and raised concerns in the country as to what the capture of one of the country's key pieces of infrastructure could mean.

After conflicting reports over whether or not the militant group has in fact captured Mosul Dam, a US State Department spokesperson late last week confirmed that the dam had in fact fallen to ISIS fighters.

"The situation on the ground is fluid but the latest information is that [ISIS] had advanced on Mosul Dam and has taken control," State Department spokesperson Michael Lavallee said.

The consequences of ISIS controlling the largest dam in Iraq are potentially catastrophic. If the group destroyed the dam, it would create a flood that would cripple Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, along with the capital, Baghdad.

Two professors at Mosul University in 2009 wrote a report that studied the hypothetical effects of the dam's collapse. They envisaged a humanitarian catastrophe beyond anything Iraq has witnessed in modern history.

If ISIS deliberately destroy the dam, as they have threatened to do, an 80-foot flood wave would submerge half of Mosul, according to the study, and 58 to 100-square miles of farmland would be destroyed, wiping out the region's ability to feed itself.

Even in a best-case scenario, within eight hours a third of the city would be submerged, while the Tigris River would burst its banks, submerging the capital, Baghdad beneath 5-metres of water within three days.

Western civil engineers concur with the findings of the 2009 report, which warned several years ago of the strategic importance of the dam as a critical military target.

"Within three days Baghdad could be flooded by five meters of water," Richard Coffman of the University of Arkansas, an assistant professor of civil engineering, who has conducted research on the Mosul Dam, said over the weekend.

This was the flood to which ISIS was referring in the latest issue of their English-language magazine released during the weekend with the headline "ISIS or the flood".

According to a 2007 report by the Army Corps of Engineers, Mosul Dam is poorly constructed and requires regular grouting to prevent it falling in on itself, a specialist task that ISIS militant are unlikely to be able to carry out on their own, raising concerns that the dam may collapse even if the militant group does not destroy it intentionally.

The US State Department has said the US government is "extremely concerned" by the development. "We are coordinating with the Iraqi security forces and Kurdish peshmerga commanders to develop options to mitigate the threat that this poses," said Lavallee.

ISIS could also use the dam to starve the population into submission, by cutting off electricity to much of northern Iraq the dam is the largest hydroelectric power plant in the country.

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