(CNN) – Iraqi forces drove ISIS out of the village of Al-Qayyara in late August, but left behind dozens of burning oil wells spewing thick black toxic smoke – an inferno.
ISIS set some oil wells on fire months ago. The purpose was to obscure the view of aircraft overhead, but ISIS has since gone and the fires continue to burn right on the edge of town in which many people are now living.
In its shadow lives Al-Qayyara resident, Khalil. Khalil and his wife cover the children with a sheet at night; scant protection from the toxic fumes.
“That well is really hurting us,” Khalil said. “The wind has changed direction and now it’s all blowing on us.”
He says they have nowhere else to go.
Engineer Hussein Salem and his team are trying to put out the dozens of fires, but it’s a time consuming process.
“It took thirty days to put out one fire,” Hussein said.
Outside the mayor’s office, people line up for requests and complaints, usually about the smoke. Since ISIS was driven out of Al-Qayyara in late August, Mayor Saleh Al-Jabouri has struggled to bring the town back to life. He worries about the long-term effects of the fires.
Al-Jobouri warned, “Those who aren’t sick now will become sick.”
In the main street, some shops have reopened, but the smoke hangs heavily on residents. Daish, as they call ISIS, left behind a poisonous legacy of death, destruction and disease.