Two die in Oil India’s Assam gas well fire, 1,600 families evacuated

Four people sustain ‘minor injuries’, with the fire burning at least 15 houses

Utpal Bhaskar
Updated10 Jun 2020
National Disaster Response Force personnel participate in a rescue operation at the site of an oil well that exploded and caught fire at Baghjan, Tinsukia district in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, Wednesday, June 10, 2020. A raging fire at the natural gas field has killed two firefighters and forced nearly 8,000 people to leave their homes, an official said Wednesday. Workers have been trying to cap the well since gas started leaking nearly two weeks ago, said Tridiv Hazarika, a spokesman for government-owned Oil India Limited, which operates the gas field in Baghjan, 550 kilometers (345 miles) east of Gauhati, the Assam state capital. (AP Photo/Partha Sarathi Das)
National Disaster Response Force personnel participate in a rescue operation at the site of an oil well that exploded and caught fire at Baghjan, Tinsukia district in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, Wednesday, June 10, 2020. A raging fire at the natural gas field has killed two firefighters and forced nearly 8,000 people to leave their homes, an official said Wednesday. Workers have been trying to cap the well since gas started leaking nearly two weeks ago, said Tridiv Hazarika, a spokesman for government-owned Oil India Limited, which operates the gas field in Baghjan, 550 kilometers (345 miles) east of Gauhati, the Assam state capital. (AP Photo/Partha Sarathi Das)(AP)

Two fire service officers of state owned Oil India Ltd (OIL) lost their lives on Tuesday, when a gas well at Baghjan in Tinsukia district of Assam caught fire, the upstream explorer said in a statement on Wednesday.

Also, four people sustained ‘minor injuries’, with the fire burning at least 15 houses. Fire tenders been deployed to prevent the fire from spreading to adjoining areas. The blaze continues unabated, with the gas leaking from the OIL’ well since 27 May.

There have also been violent protests around the well site with around 1600 families evacuated from the nearby affected areas and housed in relief camps.

India continues to suffer on account of industrial tragedies. A toxic gas leak at LG Polymers’ facility last month killed 11 people at Vishakhapatnam, in one of the deadliest industrial accidents since the Bhopal tragedy of 1984. In November 2017, there was a blast in the boiler area of state-run NTPC Ltd’s Unchahar power plant in Raebareli that also claimed many lives.

“The fire in around 200 meters periphery has completely burnt about 15 houses, while another 10-15 houses have been partially affected. It is also reported that two firemen of Oil India Ltd have died. Preliminary information indicates that three firemen, two from OIL India, and one from ONGC jumped in a water pool nearby. While ONGC fireman got injured, two OIL India firemen could not save themselves. Their bodies have been retrieved,” the union petroleum ministry said in a statement.

The state run firm had also sought help from Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Singapore based firm Alert Disaster Control.

“The well was planned to be capped by following the advice of experts and taking all safety precautions. While the clearing operations were going on at the well site, the well caught fire on 9 June 2020 around noon time, spreading the fire in an area of about 200 meters around the well site. The cause of the fire has not been ascertained till now,” the petroleum ministry statement said.

"The debris of burnt rig, fire engines and other material around the well site will be removed before any operation can be started to cap the well. Arrangements of continuous water supply will have to be made before activities are undertaken at the site which is likely to take 5-6 days to make these arrangements, and all the operations will take about 4 weeks to complete,” the statement added.

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