The fire introduced sulfuric acid into the atmosphere, prompting the hospitalization of around 1,000 people.
A lake of purple fire recently burned in Iraq as part of ISIS’ latest attempt to thwart opposition.
Attempting to prevent the arrival of the Iraqi Army at Mosul last week, on Thursday ISIS set the Mishraq sulfur plant alight and created a plume of smoke that spread over two miles. A poisonous purple fire raged for days before specialized teams put it out.
“Daesh [aka ISIS] ignited toxic sulfur residue stored at al-Mishraq in an attempt to disrupt the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces’] advance,” said Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. “This is yet another act that demonstrates Daesh’s blatant disregard for the local population.”
Smoke from burning sulphur is toxic, and in the wrong concentrations can be lethal. Indeed, at least two civilians died soon after ISIS set the plant ablaze and smoke descended into Mosul. The smoke likewise required the evacuation of over 200 families and the hospitalization of up to 1,000 individuals, according to Reuters.
People in the area told The Wall Street Journal they suffered difficulty breathing as the air began to sting their noses and throats.
Sulfur dioxide forms sulfuric acid when it comes into contact with moisture, which for people spells trouble for throats, eyes and wet skin. According to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety, a “severe, short-term exposure may cause long-term respiratory effects.”
The coalition provided approximately 24,000 gas masks to Iraqi and Peshmerga forces in preparation for the Mosul offensive. U.S. officials say it could take months before the operation uproots ISIS militants from the area — meaning that the organization can theoretically use chemical weapons again in the near future.