Human history is full of amazing structures. From the pyramids built in ancient Egypt to the modern-day skyscrapers that push the boundaries of technology, many structures impress. However, there are some structures that were built as “engineering marvels” and turned into “engineering disasters”. Vagunet Dam in Italy is one such structure.
The Vajont Dam was built during World War II for modern Italy. It was built as one of the most important examples that reflect the rapid development process after World War II. At the time, it was described as a true engineering marvel. At the time of its construction, it was recorded as the largest dam in the world. However, after serving the Italian people for a short time, it caused one of the greatest tsunamis in human history. On the other hand, the actor was behind one of the biggest disasters in the history of the country. Let’s take a look at this interesting yet tragic story that left 2,000 people dead in 1963.
The Società Adriatica di Elettricità electric company took action to build the Fagunt Dam in 1957.
The place chosen to build the dam, which is said to reflect Italy’s post-war development, was the area called Vaiont Gorge. A dam was planned to be built on the Fagunet River Valley in the region, and it was stated that the structure would satisfy all the electricity needs of the eastern part of Italy. However, there was a very important aspect that was overlooked, or rather ignored, in the construction area. The dam was built at the foot of Monte Toc, also known as the “Walking Mountain” by the locals.
The dam was completed in 1960.
During the construction process, the objections of various experts and local residents were not taken into account. The common point of objections was the fault of the area where the dam was built. Alpine stretches of landslide hazard strip were rising directly above the dam. But the dam was so great that it drowned out the rising voices of protest…
The dam, which is 850 meters long and 262 meters high, became the longest dam in the world in 1960 when it was put into use.
Moreover, it is built to be extremely durable. However, for all its splendor and power, it was built without considering environmental factors. This is why the dam soon caused one of the greatest tragedies in the country’s history.
In the days of the opening of the dam, there were some events that heralded the great tragedy.
Small-scale landslides at Mount Monte Toc have added to the concerns of residents of the area. However, the authorities insisted that no precautions were taken. On the contrary, the filling level of the dam was much higher than it should have been. Journalists, who said that the dam might cause a catastrophe in the future, were accused of “attempting to disturb social order”, and the Italian government covered up the first signs of disaster.
The predicted disaster occurred on October 9, 1963. Heavy rains in the area caused huge boulders and landmass from Monte Toc Mountain to fall into the reservoir.
A rock with a volume of 340 million cubic meters fell into the dam lake, causing a wave of 50 million cubic meters. To put it more clearly, the height of the wave that formed after the landslide was about 250 meters!
2000 people lost their lives due to the resulting massive tsunami
Three different settlements near the dam were almost completely destroyed. So much so that only a few people from the region managed to survive the Fagunt Dam disaster, one of the biggest disasters in the country’s history. In 2008, the Fagunt Dam disaster was listed by UNESCO as one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in history.
Vagont Dam, which was built as an engineering marvel but turned into an engineering disaster and caused the death of 2,000 people, is still standing today.
However, after a disaster, don’t use it as a dam. For this reason, the structure, which was known as the world’s tallest dam at the time of its construction, holds the title of “world’s tallest unused dam” today.
Some of the images that emerged after the disaster reveal the extent of the devastation it witnessed years ago.
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