Iraq govt plays down Mosul Dam collapse threat reports

'Trevi group will start work in two months'

(ANSA) - Beirut, March 11 - The Iraqi government on Friday played down reports from the United States and the UNited Nations that the key Mosul Dam is in danger of imminent collapse.
    The alerts are "not correct" and "unrealistic", said Mahid Rashid, an aide to the Iraqi water resources ministry.
    On Thursday the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, reiterated warnings that their could be a "catastrophic collapse" of the dam.
    Rashid added that the Italian company Trevi "will start work for maintenance within two months, according to a spokesman for the firm".
    Rashis said the last US report on the dam's structural state was made a year ago, and it did not highlight any risk of the dam breaking.
    He urged the US to "provide the Iraqi government with all reports referring to the possibility of a collapse".
    Rashid added: "The experts from Trevi will visit the dam in the next few days for a first surveillance, and then the work will start in two months' time". The risks of Iraq's biggest dam breaking have recently increased, United Nations sources said Thursday after a meeting Monday between Power and Iraqi Ambassador Mohamed Alhakim.
    If the dam breaks more than a million people could be drowned by its waters.
    The UN appealed to "carry out the necessary work" to repair the dam "as soon as possible", before it is too late.
    Italy's Trevi construction group is set to start repairing the dam under the protection of Italian troops.
    On March 2 the Italian foreign ministry said that the Cesena-based Trevi group had signed a contract with Iraqi authorities for consolidation work on the Mosul Dam, following "intense" negotiations with Baghdad.
    The contract is worth some 273 million euros, ANSA learned from informed sources in Baghdad.
    The repair and strengthening work will last 18 months, they said.
    The project was agreed on a recent visit to Rome by Iraqi Premier Haider al-Abadi and was the subject of talks in New York between Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and US and Iraqi representatives to speed the terms of the contract, the ministry said.
    The arrival of some 500 Italian soldiers to protect Trevi's restructuring work on the dam, whose urgent need for repair has been highlighted by the US, has been scheduled for late spring, either May or June, officials said Monday.
    The contingent could be composed of the Garibaldi Brigade bersaglieri with armoured vehicles, plus special forces, sappers and air support.
    Reconnaissance and analysis of the area to be secured have already been carried out.
    Defence ministry plans to deploy the troops are at an advanced stage.
    The Iraqi government and the US Embassy in Baghdad warned local residents on February 29 that the Mosul Dam may collapse, a risk the US called "serious and unprecedented".
    The US said a collapse could cause the deaths of nearly 1.5 million Iraqis living along the Tigris River.
    "Prompt evacuation offers the most effective tool to save lives of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis," the U.S. embassy said at the time.
    The US has warned in the past of the potential for collapse.
    Built in the 1980s, the dam is situated on soft mineral foundations, easily dissolved by water.
   

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