The toxic fumes forced US troops at a nearby base and the Iraqi forces to wear protective masks. Photograph: (AFP)
Hundreds of civilians complained of respiratory problems from toxic fumes after the Islamic State deliberately torched the sulphur plant
Toxic fumes from a torched sulphur plant near Mosul have resulted in the death of two Iraqi civilians and up to 1,000 have been treated for breathing problems. Iraqi General Qusay Hamid Kadhem told AFP, that the Islamic State militants set the plant ablaze to cover their moves in the ongoing fight in the northern part of Iraq.
"IS blew up the sulphur plant two days ago and that has led to the deaths of two people among the civilians in nearby villages," Kadhem said. A cloud of white smoke blanketed the areas around the Mishraq sulphur plant, mingling with black fumes from the nearby burning oil wells.
Officials announced the fire had been extinguished but the toxic fumes forced US troops at a nearby base and the Iraqi forces to wear protective masks. "The winds have actually shifted south, so, as a precautionary measure, the troops at Qayyara West have donned their personal protective equipment – continuing their operations at this point in time," an official said.
The civilians complaining of respiratory problems were admitted to the nearby Qayyara central hospital. "We have had every type of person come in with breathing problems and burning eyes - children, adults, policemen, soldiers," said hospital director Abdul Salam Jabbouri, adding that the "IS had set the sulphur on fire so nobody can come near them".
Most patients were given oxygen and advised to stay away from areas with high sulphur concentration. "We’ve had so many patients since yesterday that we’re almost out of oxygen," a medical aide Saddam Ahmad said.
The militant group is believed to have torched at least part of the sulphur factory on Wednesday. Air samples from Qayyara West were sent to the US Defence Threat Reduction Agency for analysis.
The Qayyara West airfield is one of the main staging bases of the United States' forces to support the Iraqi-led anti-IS operation south of Mosul.
(WION with inputs from agencies)