Italy deploys troops to Mosul Dam
Peshmerga fighters stand guard at Mosul Dam in northern Iraq Reuters

The US has again urged international governments to act quickly to avoid a "humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions" with the feared collapse of the Mosul Dam. Over the last few months the US has called for action on Iraq's largest dam as the regular maintenance that the dam needs has not been carried out.

The crucial dam was taken over by the Islamic State (Isis) in August 2014, so the constant repair work it desperately needs could not be carried out on the structure. It was retaken by Kurdish and Iraqi forces in August 2014 after US airstrikes helped seize the dam back off Daesh (IS).

It was feared the terror group would either cut off Mosul's supply to water or destroy the structure and submerge residents living near the Tigris River which runs to Baghdad. A collapse of the facility would unleash a wave more than 14 metres (45ft) high, that would destroy Mosul and flood much of the capital, with up to 1.5 million Iraqis at risk.

Because of the instability of northern Iraq repair teams have not returned to the dam since the Isis takeover. Due to an engineering flaw the dam was built on unstable foundations that continuously erode.

US Ambassador Samantha Power called on UN member states to help to repair the dam as soon as possible as well as inform residents of evacuation routes. She said according to Sky News: "It is crucial that all UN member states quickly get informed about the magnitude of the problem and the importance of readiness to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions."

The 113 metres (371ft) dam was completed in 1984 and around 500,000 to 1.47 million Iraqis live in the flood path. The ambassador said that that the information divulged by technical experts, engineers and representatives from UN aid and development agencies concerning the safety of the dam was "chilling".

"In the event of a breach, there is the potential in some places for a flood wave up to 14 metres high that could sweep up everything in its path, including people, cars, unexploded ordnance, waste and other hazardous material, further endangering massive population centres that lie in the flood path," Power said in a statement released by the US mission.

Iraq announced earlier this month that they have finalised a deal with Trevi, an Italian company, to conduct the repairs. The €273m (£210m, $296m) contract to fix the dam was signed with the agreement that 450 Italian troops will be sent to protect the site.