Iraqis Displaced In Mosul Fight Sickened By Toxic Oil Fires


Black Cloud is the Size of Los Angeles00:50

Black Cloud is the Size of Los Angeles

ISIS is setting fire to oil wells in a disruptive tactic as it retreats from a U.S.-backed offensive in Iraq

At a Glance

  • As U.S.-led forces retake Mosul, ISIS extremists set fire to more than a dozen oil wells.
  • The fires have created a toxic black cloud the size of Los Angeles that has forced more than 1,000 to seek treatment.
  • ISIS also set fire to a sulphur plant, which has compounded the situation.

ISIS has left thousands of Iraqis people living outside Mosul in a "smoke-filled hell" after setting fire to oil wells, creating a black cloud bigger than Los Angeles.


According to a report released Friday by Oxfam, an international aid organization that provides humanitarian aid to thousands of Iraqis displaced by the fight to retake Mosul, members of the extreme radical group have torched more than a dozen oil wells as they retreat towards the city ahead of a massive U.S.-backed offensive, leaving behind a toxic cloud that has forced at least 1,000 people to seek treatment for breathing-related illnesses, according to a United Nations Report.

According to Oxfam's country director, Andres Gonzalez, thousands of families living outside of Mosul are living in a "smoke-filled hell." He added that the fires have produced thick black smoke that "blocks out the sun and turn children's faces gray with oily soot."

(MORE: Air Pollution Kills More Than 5.5 Million Annually, Study Says


Smoke from oil well fires set by ISIS as seen from space.
Smoke from oil well fires set by ISIS as seen from space. (NASA)

The situation was compounded after ISIS set fire to a sulfur plant in the area. NASA reports that the fire at the plant was emitting "tremendous quantities of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere."

Oxfam said its biggest concern is the number of people becoming ill in an area that has a scarce supply of water and the medicine needed to treat people suffering from breathing-related illnesses like bronchitis.

"Even after ISIS has left, many of the people living amid its trail of destruction have told us that life remains unbearable," Gonzalez said. "Burning oil wells continue to spew out toxic fumes that burn people's throats and turn their communities into a smoke-filled hell."

Oxfam is urging the Iraqi government to extinguish fires still raging and create a contingency plan for any more fires the ISIS extremists could ignite. 

"With six oil fields surrounding Mosul still under ISIS control, the government must plan for a potentially bigger crisis involving more than a million civilians in Mosul," Gonzalez noted. 

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