2.1.5 Dam-break floods

The breaking of a dam wall, especially of large dams, is rather rare and can hardly be foreseen. The overflow of water from medium- and small-seized dams is an event occurring more often as well as the breaking of the of land type walls of the small dams.

The floods caused by break of walls of large dams can be very dangerous since they can affect the life of a lot of people.

The breaking of a dam wall can occur in case of breach in the construction as a result of progressive erosion in the wall, destruction of the embankments /dikes/. A construction breach can also occur in the case of a particularly severe flood. The dam walls are designed to withstand a powerful earthquake, but even so the earthquake can extremely weaken the wall. 

The floods caused by dam wall-break, due to their unexpectedness and high water speed, can inflict casualties and destruction comparable only to a natural disaster. This is the reason why the large dam walls are placed under constant control and surveillance with special equipment installed inside the wall, monitoring for any deviation in the facility’s parameters. Furthermore, the dam walls have automated systems for warning the population of danger.

These are cases of flood at the river bed after the dam wall which is not broken. Such a flood happened in Italy in 1963 when a huge landslide into Vaiont Dam pushed out the dam water which spilled over the dam wall without breaking it but causing catastrophic flooding / 3000 people died/.

The local authorities obligatorily have to include all dams in the protection plans.

In most cases the smaller dams used for watering and other activities cause big problems. Usually their walls are of land type and require permanent maintenance and control of installation. When such walls are maintained badly they become very dangerous at intensive rainfalls or intensive snow melt. The local authorities have to keep records of such dams, to control permanently and to make organization for risk prevention.
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