Assam Oil Well Fire Continues: 2 Killed, PM Assures Support

The Baghjan Oil Well located near the Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Assam has been blowing out since 27 May.

Updated11 Jun 2020, 03:15 AM IST
India
4 min read

Two people have been killed in the massive fire that broke out at the gas well of Oil India Ltd at Baghjan in Tinsukia district of Assam on Tuesday, 9 June, due to a blowout that has been continuing since 27 May. Their bodies have been recovered.

Two Oil India staffers have been suspended for alleged negligence in this case, PTI cited officials.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister of Assam Sarbananda Sonowal spoke to PM Narendra Modi. In his tweets, he said, "He (PM) assured of all possible help to resolve the situation and provide relief to victims."

An NDTV report quoted CM as saying the experts believe that they need around 25-28 days to control the situation. According to Oil India, a number of houses, vehicles, small gardens and some forest areas were burnt due to fire, PTI reported.

The Baghjan Oil Well located near the Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Assam has been blowing out since over two weeks. What started as an oil spill and gas leak due to the failure of pressure control systems, has now turned into a massive fire.

There have also been violent protests around the well site with around 1,600 families evacuated from the nearby affected areas and housed in relief camps. Most of them have also complained of losing their livestock and agricultural fields, and have staged protests seeking due compensation.

The Casualties

Two firefighters of Oil India Ltd were found dead at a wetland near the site of a massive oil well fire in Assam, officials said on Wednesday.

“Their bodies were recovered from a wetland near the site. Prima facie it looks that they jumped in the water and got drowned as there is no mark of burn injury. The exact cause will be ascertained only after a post-mortem,” Oil India spokesperson Tridiv Hazarika told PTI.

Durlov Gogoi and Tikeswar Gohain were assistant operators at the fire service department of the company. They went missing after the oil well caught fire on Tuesday. The bodies were recovered by an NDRF team.

Durlov Gogoi and Tikeswar Gohain were assistant operators at the fire service department of the company. They went missing after the oil well caught fire Tuesday. The bodies were recovered by an NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) team.

"Their bodies were recovered from a wetland near the site. Prima facie it looks that they jumped in the water and got drowned as there is no mark of burn injury. The exact cause will be ascertained only after a post mortem," Oil India spokesperson Tridiv Hazarika told news agency Press Trust of India.

Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas Assures Cooperation

Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry, today, said, "Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan held review meeting via video conferencing today. It has been reported that except at the well plinth area, fire around the site has mostly extinguished. However, burning of gas at well mouth will continue till it's capped," ANI reported.

Pradhan also assured the Chief Minister that there will be full cooperation from MoPNG and OIL. The affected families will be given relief and compensation, as finalised with the state government, said MoPNG.

Singapore-Based Firm to Plug the Blowout

On Sunday, 7 June, a three-member expert team from a Singapore-based emergency management firm reached Assam’s Tinsukia district to plug the blowout on the request of State-owned Oil India Limited (OIL).

“There is a drilling mobile rig on the top of the blowout site and there are a number of iron pipes hanging over it, so there’s a high possibility that the wind could have caused a speak in those pipes,” Scroll quoted Tridiv Hazarika, the company’s spokesperson, as saying.

An OIL press release said that after the preliminary discussion and de-briefing session, the experts from Singapore's 'Alert Disaster Control', led by Michael Ernest Allcorn, along with the OIL team, reached Baghjan well site in the Monday afternoon.

"The experts from Alert complimented OIL for all the preparatory works carried out so far and mentioned that based on their wide experience of handling over a thousand blowouts in around 135 countries all over the world under different conditions, they are confident of controlling the well at the earliest with necessary support from OIL," read the press release.

They also said the testing of other well controlled equipments is in progress at OIL's drilling yard.

As many as 650 families, comprising 2,500 people, have been shifted to three relief camps after the OIL’s oil well at the Baghjan village started releasing natural gas into the air after a leak on 27 May. OIL will pay Rs 30,000 as immediate relief to each impacted family.

Claiming that no human life has been lost due to release of natural gas, crude oil spillage or condensate during the past several years, OIL denied local media reports that four persons died at nearby Natun Gaon village due to pollution from the blowout.

According to OIL, associated condensates coming out with the gas are water sprayed and collected in a pond near the well site and then transported to Duliajan.

Utmost care has been taken to check spillage of condensate to surrounding areas, it said, adding that a barricade has been created around the well site to prevent the contaminated water runoff to surrounding and nearby water bodies.

Environmentalists & Activists Raise Concerns

Meanwhile, many environmentalists, academics, wildlife experts, writers, social activists and journalists have expressed concern over the environmental consequences of the blowout near the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, a biodiversity hotspot.

In a statement, they said the Baghjan oilfield was located next to the Maguri-Motapung wetland, part of the eco-sensitive zone of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, known for migratory birds and feral horses. The villagers of this area were dependent upon the wetland and the Dangori and Dibru rivers in the Baghjan area for livelihood, they said.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Published: 09 Jun 2020, 10:34 AM IST
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