BAGHDAD, April 16 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese company on Tuesday started drilling the first oil well in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, raising hope among local residents in the underdeveloped areas.
Mazin al-Khuzaie, mayor of Qazaniya, described the drilling by China's Zhongman Petroleum and Natural Gas Group Corp., Ltd. (ZPEC) as "a big event" for the town, located some 180 km east of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
"It is a big event not only in Qazaniya, but in all over the province of Diyala, which has not witnessed the drilling of an oil well for more than half a century or more," he told Xinhua.
"The news of drilling oil well was widely welcomed by the residents of the town," al-Khuzaie said.
He said the drilling was "a sign of the transformation of Qazaniya to an oil town," which will have a positive impact on its economy through creating job opportunities.
Al-Khuzaie revealed that the oil companies operating in the 8th exploration block, which reaches the edges of Qazaniya, will contribute 4 million U.S. dollars to a program to finance the service projects in Qazaniya.
Mazin Obeid, a retired government employee, told Xinhua that Qazaniya and its villages have long suffered from unemployment and poverty.
The Chinese company has made a positive difference in the lives of the local residents as they could find jobs, Obeid said.
Haider Ghali, a truck driver working for ZPEC, told Xinhua that "the Chinese employees of the company are very friendly with us."
The Chinese company, which has provided good job opportunities to many local young people, saved him from poverty, Ghali said.
"People in Qazaniya are optimistic about the work of the Chinese company in the oil field and believe it is a start of economic prosperity," he added.