Saturday, October 22, 2016

Possible "humanitarian catastrophe" if the fire was not controlled soon: ISIS/ISIL torch sulfur plant near Mosul, toxic fumes affect many

ISIS set fire to a sulfur production plant and chemical warehouse some 55 kilometers (34 miles) south of Mosul in northern Iraq, officials said Saturday.

The mayor of the district of Al Qayara, Saleh al Yaburi, told EFE that the fire had caused large amounts of toxic fumes and smoke to billow across the area.

He described how "poison gas" was "choking the inhabitants of nearby areas."

Officials said IS fighters had torched many oil wells near Mosul in order to hinder the visibility of aircraft with smoke in a bid to slow the advance of Iraqi troops.

Al Yaburi said that the area around Al Qayara "is totally contaminated" as a result of extremists who had set fire to oil fields before the liberation of the region by Iraqi forces on Aug. 25.

The civil defense director of the province of Nineveh, Mohamed Abdelqader, told EFE that 10 teams of firefighters had tackled the sulfur fire with large trucks.

There were hundreds of cases of local inhabitants that had been severely affected by the suffocating effects of the fumes, the director of the health sector in the region of Al Qayara, Jairi Awad al Jafaye, told EFE.

Al Jafaye said that eight of those who had been affected by the smoke were in serious condition in hospitals in the city of Erbil in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region.

He also warned of a possible "humanitarian catastrophe" if the fire was not controlled soon, with many new cases of choking predicted for the coming hours.

Mosul today entered the sixth day of the offensive to oust IS from its main hub in Iraq, which it took control of in June 2014.

Sulfur can be produced as a byproduct of natural gas and petroleum. It burns with a blue flame and forms sulfur dioxide, which has a suffocating and corrosive odor.

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