Assam gas well fire: 7,000 moved to relief camps; 2 firefighters dead

An aerial view of the Baghjan oil field engulfed in fire, in Tisukia, Assam. Photo: PTI
About 7,000 people from areas near Oil India's Baghjan gas well, which has been spewing gas for over two weeks and eventually caught fire, have been moved to 12 relief camps, company and government officials said on Wednesday.

In a statement, Oil India Limited (OIL) said it has also formed four teams comprising senior officials to implement measures to mitigate the crisis arising out of the gas well blowout and the massive fire that broke out at the site on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal of all possible assistance to the victims and to resolve the situation.

Oil India said four persons -- two from OIL, and one from Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), and a contractor -- sustained minor injuries in the fire and were provided immediate medical help.

"After the incident (fire), affected people in the surrounding areas are accommodated at 12 relief camps at a safer distance with the help of the district administration and arrangements for food and other basic needs have been made," it added.

Tinsukia Additional Deputy Commissioner Pranabjit Kakati said around 7,000 people have been moved to relief camps. Four of these camps were set up after the blowout began on May 27.

"After the fire broke out, we had to shift two relief camps to a different place as they were near the site (of the blaze). The fire turned into an inferno last evening and so we could not take any chance," he added.

Oil India said Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan held an emergency video conference with its staff at the company's field headquarters in Duliajan and the site in Baghjan.

Pradhan took stock of the ground level situation and advised Oil India to take immediate action to provide all necessary support to the affected people besides taking all steps to control the spread of the fire.

"As an immediate actionable measure after the meeting, CMD-OIL constituted four teams -- technical, arrangements and facilities, relief and rehabilitation, and other issues -- for effective execution of measures in the current crisis situation," the statement said.

Immediate compensation is being disbursed to families of the two Oil India employees who sacrificed their lives, it added.

Two assistant operators of the fire service department of Oil India were killed in the efforts to control the blaze on Tuesday.

Their bodies were recovered from the site earlier on Wednesday.

Oil India Chairman and MD Sushil Chandra Mishra had a detailed discussion with Assam Industry Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary in the presence of Pegu and apprised him of the status of the blowout and actions initiated by the company.

The blaze at the well is so massive that plumes of black smoke can be seen from a distance of more than 30 kms, endangering the local biodiversity, including the nearby Dibru-Saikhowa National Park which was already reeling under the impact of the blowout.

"Currently, fire tenders are spraying water to contain (keep) the fire from spreading to the surrounding areas. Arrangement for additional water for fire control is in progress," Oil India said.

It said three experts from Singapore's Alert Disaster Control visited the site this morning along with Oil India and ONGC teams to assess the current situation. Currently, a roadmap is being prepared for the next course of action.


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