The Kuwaiti oil fires were started in January 1991 by retreating Iraqi armed forces as part of a scorched earth policy during the Gulf War. Almost 700 oil wells were set alight, with the last fire being extinguished in November 1991. An estimated total of 1-1.5 billion barrels of oil were lost. The oil which leaked but did not burn formed around 300 oil lakes in the desert which congealed to a hard surface known as ‘tarcrete’ which, combined, covered around 5% of the total area of Kuwait.
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