Iraq makes contingency plans for Syria dam collapse

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Iraq has prepared contingency plans in case a dam in northern Syria that fell under rebel control two months ago collapses, an official told AFP on Monday.

The dam on the Euphrates river in Raqa province fell under the control of rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad in February. It generates 880 megawatts of power.

“We put plans in place to prevent the major damage that could be caused by such an incident,” Ali Hashem, the general director of Iraq’s national center for managing water resources, told AFP.

“We have to be ready for these kinds of incidents. When we saw what is happening in Syria, we put our plans in place.”

Hashem did not give details on what the plans specifically entailed, or what had sparked Iraqi officials’ concerns, as the area surrounding the dam has largely been peaceful since it fell under rebel control in February.

Completed in 1973 after five years of construction, it was dubbed al-Thawra or “revolution” dam for the 1966 military coup that brought Hafez al-Assad, the father and predecessor of the current Syrian president, to power.

According to the Syrian ministry of water resources website, the dam is 4.5 kilometers long, 60 meters high and 512 meters wide at its base.

It holds back Lake Assad, also named for the former ruler, a 14.1 billion cubic meter (500 billion cubic feet) man-made reservoir midway along the 2,800 kilometer Euphrates, which flows from Turkey to the north to Iraq in the east.