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As Iraqi forces retreated from Kuwait during the first Gulf War, they opened the valves of oil wells and pipelines in a bid to slow the onslaught of American troops.

The result was the largest oil spill history has seen.

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However, the largest oil spill the world has seen exacted little permanent damage on coral ecosystems and local fisheries, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission at Unesco.

Deepwater Horizon 2010 Mexican Gulf 210 million gallons The BP oil spill flowed for three months, becoming the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

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Fergana Valley, 1992 Uzbekistan 87.7 million gallons Nearly 88 million gallons of oil spilled from an oil well in Fergana Valley, one of Uzbekistans's most active energy- and oil-refining areas.Cleanup efforts were foiled by strong winds and heavy seas and less than 3300 tons of dispersants were used.Odyssey Oil Spill, 1988 700 nautical miles off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada 43 million gallons In November 1988 the Liberian tanker Odyssey, virtually full to the brim with North Sea crude oil, broke in two and sunk in the North Atlantic 700 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia.Amoco Cadiz, 1978 Off Brittany, France 68.7 million gallons The tanker ran aground off the coast of Brittany after its steering failed in a severe storm.Its entire cargo of 246,000 tons of light crude oil was dumped into the roiling waters of the English Channel, with the grim consequence of killing off more marine life than any other oil spill to date at the time.The spill stemmed from a sea-floor oil gusher that resulted from the April 20, 2010, explosion of Deepwater Horizon, which drilled on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect.The explosion killed 11 men working on the platform and injured 17 others.Over the next 10 months about 140 million gallons of crude spouted into the Gulf of Mexico from the damaged oil well.In order to slow down the flow of oil from the damaged well, mud and later steel, iron and lead balls were dropped down its shaft. Atlantic Empress, 1979 Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies 88.3 million gallons One stormy evening in July 1979, two full supertankers collided off the coast of Tobago in the Caribbean Sea, precipitating the largest ship-sourced oil spill in history.While the spill didn't get much press at the time, it is the largest inland spill ever reported.The ground absorbed this spill, leaving nothing for cleaning crews to tackle.