AGAINST THE FIRES OF HELL: The Environmental Disaster of the Gulf War by T.M. Hawley

AGAINST THE FIRES OF HELL: The Environmental Disaster of the Gulf War

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A careful assessment of the environmental damage wrought by both sides in Operation Desert Storm, locally and globally, from Boston-based science-writer Hawley. Focusing initially on the herculean efforts of firefighters to extinguish blazes and cap the oil flowing from 732 ruptured wells in Kuwait, Hawley describes a nightmarish world full of immense lakes of crude oil advancing across the desert sands, choking soot and airborne gases, and a vast blanket of smoke turning daylight into twilight for months. The battle against the fires went more quickly than expected despite a hesitant start, but efforts to combat other aspects of the disaster were less successful. The largest oil spill in history--40 times the amount that leaked from the Exxon Valdez, and caused by Allied bombing as well as Iraqi sabotage--flowed almost impeded onto the remote northern beaches of Saudi Arabia. Coastal industries and desalination plants to the south were protected, but clean-up efforts in the region most affected were spotty and underfunded, so that nearly all of the oil deposited on the beaches remains, buried now by shifting sands. While the impact of the wide-ranging plumes of smoke on life beyond the Gulf region has yet to he determined, the effects on the local population of breathing heavily polluted air for months may never be fully known, thanks to the Kuwait government's insistence that no danger existed and to its refusal to gather critical health data during the period. A provocative, detailed view, if somewhat disorganized and repetitious, offering ample evidence that the war was far from over after the soldiers went home.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
Page count: 250pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich