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Euphrates Dam: Story of Survival from Explosions and Russian Oil

Top Secret | 2017-06-12 11:56:46
Euphrates Dam: Story of Survival from Explosions and Russian Oil

By Abdullah Ghadawi


(Zaman Al Wasl)- The voices which cried out against the murder of the Ahmad al-Hussein, engineer and director of the Euphrates Dam, soon dissipated as other voices cried out about the looming danger of the Dam collapsing, and the impacts of such an event on the Syrian Jazeera region. At that time, everyone spoke about the Dam regardless of their expertise, and all the analysis and quotes fell apart, and the Dam did not fall. 

In an exclusive investigation, Zaman al-Wasl reveals what happened to the Euphrates Dam and its current condition. Zaman al-Wasl was given access to every corner of the Dam even the subterranean levels which are now flooded with water.


Our investigative team examines the extent of the damage and destruction that befell the Dam after the Islamic State forces left the Dam’s current mechanisms, and the sole means of preserving the Dam and restoring it. 


Blowing up the Dam 

Operators in the Euphrates Dam, many of whom worked at the Dam since the time the regime was in control and throughout the period of Islamic State control, revealed that the Islamic State tried to blow up the entire Euphrates Dam.

Speaking to Zaman al-Wasl at the Dam site, employees said the Islamic State wanted to blow up the entire Dam quietly and without announcing their intention. “They ordered us to go and take our salaries from al-Tabaqa, and when we went there, they detained us for an entire day. They [the Islamic State] sent for mine and explosive experts from Raqqah city,” they explained. 

The employees added that the Islamic State forces brought in their explosives experts who started blowing up parts of the Dam while Abu Hisham, the oldest employee at the Dam, who is now managing the everyday functioning of the Dam in the absence of experts, tried to prevent them from blowing it up. He confronted them, but they ignored him and blew up some parts of the Dam. During this time, the other workers were released from detention in al-Tabaqa and fighting escalated in al-Tabaqa, so the Islamic State’s plan to blow up the Dam failed. To compensate for the failure of their plan, they vandalised the equipment and the machines. 


Damaging Equipment 


While touring the subterranean levels of the Euphrates Dam, Zaman al-Wasl’s team saw the destruction perpetrated by the Islamic State forces in the Dam facilities. Abu Hisham said that the Islamic State’s aim was to deprive any incoming forces, which take control of the city from benefiting from the Dam and what it provides. He stressed that he always debated with Islamic State forces the importance of the Dam for civilians, but they always responded, “if we as Jihadists do not benefit from it then others gaining any kind of benefit from it is a loss.” 
Zaman al-Wasl documented the destruction of over 200 electrical cups (as they are referred to), which work on gas. The cups are an advanced electrical energy generating technology, which Iran provided to the regime one year before al-Raqqah fell to Islamic State control. The electrical cups were not used until the Islamic State took control of the city and when they left, they destroyed them entirely. 

According to employees, the electrical cups cost millions of Dollars, and this technology was destroyed with several rounds of bullets. The Islamic State did not care how important this technology is for the region’s people as the cups provided electricity to the people of al-Raqqah and al-Tabaqa who until now are without electricity. 

During Zaman al-Wasl’s tour of the facilities, we photographed the destruction the Islamic State forces exacted on the Dam equipment and machines. It appears that the Islamic State forces were entirely unaware of what was inside the Euphrates Dam and the technologies available. Employees explained that due to their lack of awareness, the Islamic State forces did not harm any of them, as they wanted to benefit from their knowledge capabilities. 

On the first floor of the Dam building, Zaman al-Wasl was greeted by a sand wall and showed the Islamic State’s sniper position. Abu Hisham explained that the Islamic State forces were preparing for all the possible war scenarios, especially at the Euphrates Dam. He said that they were preparing for a chemical war after they failed to blow up the Dam, and they worked to poison the Euphrates water, but something indescribable prevented that. Abu Hisham said, “I truly do not know…The river’s water was saved by divine will.” 

Russian Oil: The Only Solution


The Euphrates Dam’s technicians and experts who spoke to Zaman al-Wasl, said the only solution to repair the Dam is for Russian experts to come to the Dam and repair it. They explained that the Dam was established and built using Russian technologies and expertise and only they could repair it. The technicians added that the Americans tried to repair the damages, but they failed because they do not know the Dam’s build and work mechanisms. The Dam’s highly experienced employees managed to get the Dam’s water levels under control. Abu Hisham stressed that despite this, the only experts capable of repairing the damage to the Dam are the Russians. 

He explained that the Dam map, its equipment, and even the oil used to activate the facility are manufactured in Russia. All machines are disabled due to the absence of Russian oil. The engines and machines could only be operated under Russian supervision. According to the employees’ estimations, even with the intervention of Russian experts, it will take between 2-3 years for the Dam to return to its previous function. 

Abu Hisham said the issue is not exclusive to the Euphrates Dam as Tishreen Dam suffers the same problem. The Chinese team who build Tishreen Dam programmed the Dam according to Chinese technologies, so that Dam can only be repaired by a team of Chinese experts. 

The Dam’s Major Problem  

As you walk around in the depth of the Dam with all the damaged equipment around you, water hits you from every side. The subterranean levels have become a sea of water, and employees have treated the problem using primitive methods such as expelling the water using ordinary pumps. Abu Hisham said that the main problem is, “if the water reaches to here, everything ends and the Dam is gone.” He was referring to the level of water, so if the water level rises to 254 or above- the level of Euphrates Dam turbines- the Dam will go out of service completely.

Abu Hisham, the Dam’s technical historian, asserted, “The Dam employees exerted extensive efforts for the water level to reach 248, which is the acceptable level in the Dam.” He pointed out that below the level we stood at there are other floors which have been flooded with water due to some of the facilities going out of service. 
Although the so-called “underground electrical floor” is submerged, the Dam is still operating without a complete breakdown. The employees attributed this to the strength of the Russian construction of the Dam to enable it to resist natural disasters and shocks.

Zaman al-Wasl in the Operation Rooms

Our tour led us through the Dam’s corridors to the main operation rooms where the work was regulated and monitored. Shockingly, we found the room full of iron remnants after it was burnt and all the equipment destroyed. By examining the destruction, we identified that the fire was an intentional act of arson. The fire extended beyond the operation rooms to the Director General’s office as well. 

Abu Hisham revealed that the major strike was the Islamic State force targeting the main control room. He continued that the largest damages the Dam suffered were caused by the Islamic State forces more than the International Coalition’s bombardment. The Islamic State forces were not content just to burn and vandalise equipment, but also left mines in the Dam facility. He explained that a group of American experts removed more than 70% of mines placed in the Dam, but said that there are still more hidden in different corners of the Dam. 

According to technicians and experts, the amount of damage and destruction amounts to hundreds of millions of US Dollars. Abu Hisham pointed out that the technical capabilities are now limited to managing the destruction of the dam only, but this will not last more than a year as the dam needs complete maintenance.

Zaman al-Wasl’s investigation revealed that the Islamic State forces wanted to stop the Dam from working entirely. Finding all the destruction they leveled within the facility not enough, they took to firing bullets at the Dam’s eight turbines leaving behind scars. (Translation by Rana Abdul)

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