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REUTERS-PICTURES30/
RTR4PF9Y
13 Feb. 2015
Oil fire fighters from Boots and Coots try to put out... more
REUTERS-PICTURES30/
RTR4PF9Y
13 Feb. 2015
AL-AHMADI, Iraq
Oil fire fighters from Boots and Coots try to put out an oil well fire in Al-Ahmadi where retreating Saddam Hussein forces had set fire to the oil wells, in this March 30, 1991 file photo.

Russell Boyce: The workers were trying to contain the flames with a shield and tube when a blast of heat blew off the helmet of one of the workers.

The flames seem to dwarf the workers, who look almost helpless as they struggle against what looks like the very flames of hell.

To get access to the fires we had to drive through a lake of oil created from the wells. Once we got there, the heat was so intense that you we could not get close. A slight change of wind and we'd be covered in choking fumes.

It was 1991, the pre-digital age, and I was using Nikon F3P to transmit the picture. I had to return to my hotel room, process film, make a colour print, stick a paper-typed caption on the print and use a drum transmitter to send the picture. Initially we transmitted pictures on our satellite phone - which was as big as a large trunk suitcase that two people had to carry as it was so heavy.

We had a generator running in my room as there was no power in Kuwait City so my room always smelt of fumes from the generator, photographic chemicals and fumes from the oil fires.

There was no water, except for about an hour a day, so processing film was difficult: I would fill the bath with water when it was on so that I always had a way to process film.

Eventually, the telephone lines were reconnected so it might have been transmitted over them. The picture took 21 minutes to transmit, each separation, magenta, cyan and yellow, taking seven minutes. REUTERS/Russell Boyce/Files (IRAQ - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY CONFLICT)

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