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Washington: ISIS Oil Fires in Iraq Lead to Long-term Environmental, Health Damages

Washington: ISIS Oil Fires in Iraq Lead to Long-term Environmental, Health Damages

Tuesday, 6 February, 2018 - 06:45
A dried sulfur spill, caused by a factory fire set by ISIS fighters, extends from a wall around the plant to the road on Jan. 18 in Qayyarah, Iraq. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Alex Potter

US officials warned against short and long-term consequences as a result of ISIS burning oil wells following its defeat in Iraq.

The officials have monitored the destruction and environmental damage done to Kuwait by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces when they set fire to the country's oil fields in 1991.

They told "The Washington Post" that the burning of oil wells will leave Impacts on Iraq's environment that "may be unprecedented and permanent, with a toxic legacy that includes wide-scale cattle deaths, fields that no longer yield edible crops and chronic breathing complications in children and the elderly."

The damage on the Syrian and Iraqi side is "right in the country's breadbasket, and ISIS contaminated it through industrial practices and deliberate sabotage," said a US official who closely tracked the destruction over the past three years.

"You've got trenches filled with oil, oil spilled into the river, and soot from burning oil contaminating the fields," the official added.

"All of it makes it harder to govern, or even to provide clean food and water."

But unlike in Kuwait, the toxins emitted around Qayyarah have settled in villages and settlements that are home to about 100,000 people, according to The Washington Post.

Up to 2 million barrels of oil were lost, either burned or spilled, as a result of ISIS damages in 1 year starting summer 2016, according to a United Nations report.

Environmental experts worry that much of the oil has seeped into the groundwater and the nearby Tigris River - a lifeline for millions of Iraqis stretching more than 1,000 miles to Baghdad and beyond reaching Basra.

The militants also torched a sulfur plant north of Qayyarah, spewing 35,000 tons of the stinging substance into the air, the United Nations report said.

Reportedly containing one of the largest sulfur stockpiles in the world, the plant was set ablaze in part to help hold off Iraqi security forces.

The report also addressed fires in Qayyarah in different factories and spots.

It added that ISIS carried out a variety of environmental sabotage and degradation that blight a vast area, extending north to Iraq's Hamrin Mountains and west to the farms and oil fields that line the Euphrates River near the Syrian city of Deir al-Zour.

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