Kuwait Life Under a Cloud

The lights are on and the water is running, but the recovery has been hampered by incompetence -- and a shortage of citizens

On a bad day, crossing the border into Kuwait is like getting a preview of the apocalypse. In the distance greasy smoke spurts from torched oil wells, sending up dozens of black funnels that look like infernal tornadoes. Overhead the plumes merge to form a charcoal cloud that blocks out the sun. Flakes of white ash tumble from the sky like dry, malignant snow. "Some days are so dark," says a photographer who is covering the fires, "I have to use a flashlight at nine in the morning."

But not all is gloom in Kuwait these days. Beneath the funereal skies...

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