Black smoke pouring from about 1,000 blazing oil wells and refineries in Kuwait poses the most dangerous and widespread threat of air pollution in history, an environmental group said Friday.
"Atmospheric pollution on this scale has never occurred before," said senior researcher Michael Renner of the Worldwatch Institute.An initial survey Friday by Kuwaiti petroleum engineers indicated all 950 producing oil wells were set ablaze or otherwise damaged. An unspecified number of refineries also are burning. Some were ignited by allied bombing, but most are the result of Iraqi sabotage.
The volume of burning oil is unprecedented, with estimates of between 2.5 million and 3 million barrels per day - double Kuwait's production before the war - blazing out of control.
The fires, flaming up to 500 feet in the sky, are spreading black smoke over a distance of more than 1,000 miles.
In other gulf-related news:
- Iraq's foreign minister on Friday complained of U.S. "provocations" under the cease-fire and demanded all foreign forces leave his country immediately.
Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz said U.S. forces were "making attacks incompatible with a cease-fire," Baghdad radio reported.
- Kurdish leaders complained Friday that State Department officials refused to see them to discuss their role in a postwar Iraq.
Peter Galbraith, an employee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said department officials said they were too busy to arrange a meeting.
- Cruise ship bookings already are up, and the ski industry expects to be a quick beneficiary of a peace dividend in U.S. tourism as the gulf war ends.
Industry experts believe the combination of pent-up demand and growing consumer confidence will boost domestic leisure travel, but international vacations remain a question mark.
- U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar dispatched a senior aide to the Middle East Friday to determine the humanitarian role of the world body in the war-torn Persian Gulf region.
- Thousands of Iraqi troops are wandering the desert sands trying to get home or searching for anyone to whom they can surrender, military officials said Friday.
Allied military officials say Iraq had some 600,000 troops in Kuwait and southern Iraq just before the war. Estimates of Iraqi prisoners of war taken in both the air and ground campaigns range from 50,000 to over 80,000.
Most allied officials say Iraqi casualties are impossible to determine, but the highest estimate of fatalities from one official was 175,000.
- Evangelist Billy Graham said on Friday that a nation that has been drawn together as rarely before owes an outpouring of thanks to God that the war was so short and American casualties so few. He also urged love for "our enemies."
- A fancy parade for returning Desert Storm troops could cost cash-strapped New York City $1 million, but some politicians said Friday the parade must go on, and they're already working to raise money.
- CBS News expressed hope Friday that the gulf war cease-fire would hasten the release of its news crew, missing since Jan. 21, but said they have no new information about the crew.
- Normally reserved Saudis took to the streets on their holy day Friday, honking car horns and waving large green Saudi Arabian flags in celebration of victory.
Shouting, "I love you, America," and "Saudi, Saudi, Saudi," several hundred Saudis drove up and down the corniche along the Persian Gulf beachfront for more than an hour before police slowly waded in and broke up the celebration.
- Some injured Iraqi soldiers brought to a Kuwait hospital were killed by lethal injection, a woman who claims to have secretly administered the shots said in a British television interview. The nurse said she saw the injections as a chance to do her part against the enemy.