The site of one the burning oil wells in Qayyara late last year. Photo: Rudaw video
QAYYARAH, Iraq– After months of battling a number of burning oil wells set ablaze by ISIS in the outskirts of the town of Qayyarah last year the Iraqi government announced on Tuesday that all the fires have been put out.
Following the recapture of Shargat and Qayyarah – two oil-rich towns in northern Iraq by the Iraqi army last year—ISIS no longer holds any oil well in Iraq, forcing the group to rely on other sources for income and fuel.
Iraq’s Minister of Oil Jabbar Al-Luiebi said that the Iraqis were able to control the fire in a “record time” without asking for help from the international companies and that saved Iraq’s central bank millions in hard cash.
According to Iraq’s oil ministry, there are 50 oil wells in the town, 34 of which have been damaged as the result of fighting between Iraqi forces and ISIS.
ISIS militants set on fire 18 of the wells last summer to create a protective screen against air strikes.
Expressing happiness over the end of the smoke that shrouded the area for more than eight months, locals told Rudaw they were concerned that unless properly sealed the wells may catch fire again.
One local described the oil on the surface as “an oil lake” that poses health risks, calling on the government to deal with the issue properly.
ISIS militants sabotaged the oil infrastructure in Qayyarah and started fires that could be seen by NASA satellites.
The space agency pointed out on its website last year that the “event recalls fires in neighboring Kuwait during the 1990s Persian Gulf War,” after Saddam Hussein’s soldiers sabotaged Kuwait’s oil infrastructure as they were being forced to retreat by the US-led coalition.
“Like the current fires in Iraq, many of Kuwait’s fires produced thick, dark smoke,” an atmospheric scientist at NASA named Ralph Kahn explained.
Rudaw’s team captured the arduous task of putting out the fire when they visited the town in November last year.