It is reported that the Hidroituango dam was breached last week after heavy floods damaged Colombia’s largest hydroelectric dam project, releasing a flow of water and mud into the nearby town of Puerto Valdivia, in the Colombian municipality of Valdivia. The latest reports indicate that some 5,000 people have been evacuated from their homes so far. The remaining inhabitants of towns downstream and other nearby settlements, totalling 120,000 people, may need to be evacuated to safe locations, and the military / rescue services are currently on standby.

The breach is reported to have caused extensive damage to the turbine hall and engine room at the hydroelectric facility, which appears to have been intentionally flooded in order to prevent a total collapse of the dam. While the extent of the damage and financial losses to the megaproject are yet to be quantified, the Hidroituango dam investment is reported to be valued at USD4 billion, with an estimated plant output of 2,400 MW per hour and capacity to generate 16% of the Colombia’s electricity.

The main shareholders of the Hidroituango dam are the Instituto de Desarrollo de Antioquia (50.7%) and Empresa de Energía de Medellín (46.3%). While the two construction consortia involved are Consortium CCC Ituango and Consortium Tuneles FS.

The cause of the breach remains to be determined, as does any wider environmental impact that may have been suffered. The dam is located on the river Cauca in western Colombia.