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The increased drainage pushed the Jianjiang River out of its banks, but officials hoped minor flooding now would prevent a catastrophic flood later on, if the dam were to collapse.

An unknown number of people were evacuated in Jiangyou City ahead of the increased outflow, Xinhua reported.

If the dam were to break, it could threaten up to 1.3 million people downstream. More than 250,000 people already have been been evacuated, Xinhua reported.

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/06/10/china.quake/index.html

Is the future meaning introduced by "were to" necessary? Would it be bettter to use the simple past "If the dam broke"?

Thanks
Comments  
It's hypothetical. The writer doesn't think the dam will break.
I agree. Can I use my version of hypothetical statement?
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New2grammar
The increased drainage pushed the Jianjiang River out of its banks, but officials hoped minor flooding now would prevent a catastrophic flood later on, if the dam were to collapse.

An unknown number of people were evacuated in Jiangyou City ahead of the increased outflow, Xinhua reported.

If the dam were to break, it could threaten up to 1.3 million people downstream. More than 250,000 people already have been been evacuated, Xinhua reported.

No. Your version suggests that the dam willl probably break.

'Were' is used in the first sentence. Therefore you have to use 'were' in the other sentence.
No. Your version suggests that the dam willl probably break. (Really? My version is a typical type 2 conditional)

'Were' is used in the first sentence. Therefore you have to use 'were' in the other sentence. (I should have said that I'll change both for consistency)
No. Your version, as I said earlier, will mean the writer thinks the dam will probably break.
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