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Iran Cites Oil Field Fire for 'Black Rain' : Gulf War: Iraqi occupiers ignited several wells at the Wafra field in southern Kuwait, the U.S. military says.

January 23, 1991|From Associated Press

MANAMA, Bahrain — Fire raged today at an oil field in southern Kuwait that was ignited by the Iraqi occupiers, oil industry executives said, and "black rain" fell on Iran.

The U.S. military distributed photographs at a military briefing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and said they showed the Wafra oil field in southern Kuwait.

Several wells were ablaze, with smoke clouds rising into the sky, and others appeared to be burned out.

U.S. military officials said Tuesday that Iraq had damaged or destroyed oil wells and storage tanks at the Wafra field, near the Saudi border. The field is in a so-called neutral oil zone shared by Kuwait and Saudia Arabia.

One oil industry executive said today that the fire was spread over one-third of a mile.

Storage tanks at Shuaiba and Mina Abdullah, farther north along the coast, also were set on fire.

The fires heightened fears that the Persian Gulf War could lead to an environmental disaster.

Iran blamed the oil field blazes for a greasy "black rain" that fell today on the nation's Bushehr province, 170 miles east of Kuwait.

Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency said the blackened rain lasted 10 minutes.

"According to environment specialists . . . the rain was black and greasy because of the fire in the Kuwaiti oil wells and other areas in the Persian Gulf region," the agency reported.

Officials have said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could have several reasons for setting the oil fields and storage tanks afire.

He may want to create a cloud of black smoke to interfere with U.S. and allied bombing raids, to delay a coalition ground offensive, or to hide a partial withdrawal. He may want to show that he is willing to carry out an earlier threat to lay waste to Kuwait's vast oil fields.

Wafra is jointly operated by the Kuwait Oil Co. and the American oil giant Texaco. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait share the crude.

A Texaco spokesman, David Dickson, said Wafra is one of three Kuwaiti fields Texaco helped operate, which together produced 135,000 barrels of oil a day before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait Aug. 2. Dickson said this represented an "insignificant amount of worldwide Texaco operations."

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