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“Southern Iraq’s Toxic Twilight: Burning Gas and Poisoning the Air”

“Iraq is the rare country that imports gas but also burns natural gas from oil wells into the air. The wasted gas is enough to power 3 million homes. Burning it is making people sick.

NAHRAN OMAR, Iraq — The men of Nahran Omar, a village in the heart of southern Iraq’s oil country, filed into a Shiite shrine clutching envelopes with X-rays, medical reports and death certificates.

They had come to describe the misery they say is caused by the burning gas and chemicals spewing out of the oil wells in their village. Each one had a sick son or a dying wife, an ill brother or sister.

“Imagine that in the town you come from every family has someone who has cancer,” said Khalid Qassim Faleh, a local tribal leader. “This is the situation in Nahran Omar.”

The chemicals in the air — in Nahran Omar and other oil towns across southern Iraq — come from the smoky orange flames atop the oil wells, burning away the natural gas that bubbles up with the oil.”

Alissa J. Rubin and Clifford Krauss report for the New York Times July 16, 2020, with photographs and video by Ivor Prickett.