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Fire in periphery doused, blaze at Assam’s Baghjan confined to mouth of oil well

Experts from US, Canada will join efforts to control the remaining blaze at the Oil India well that caught fire Tuesday after continuously spewing gas for 16 days.

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Dibrugarh (Assam): The fire in the periphery of Oil India’s gas well in Assam’s Tinsukia district has been doused after sustained efforts of fire fighters and at the moment only flowing gas is burning at the mouth of the well, a senior official of the PSU said on Thursday.

Though no peripheral burning is taking place at the moment at the well’s site at Baghjan, the company has declared an area up to 1.5 km radius as “red zone” to avoid any untoward incident and harm to the general public.

“Now only the flowing gas is burning at the mouth of the well. We have declared an area with 1.5 km of radius as a red zone so that no outside person comes near the site. It is being done as a safety measure,” Oil India Ltd (OIL) Senior Manager (Public Affairs) Jayant Bormudoi told PTI.

The official said three more foreign experts from the US and Canada will reach Assam in two days to control the blaze caused by a major blowout at the gas well on Tuesday.

Currently, three experts from Singaporean firm Alert Disaster Control are working at the site since Monday to stop the gas leak.

“We have contacted three more experts and they will be joining us the day after tomorrow. Two of them are from the USA and one is from Canada,” Bormudoi said.

The visa and all other regulatory approvals are completed and they will be flying very soon from their respective places, he added.

Bormudoi informed that the gas is flowing uncontrollably at a pressure of 4,500 psi (pounds per square inch) and it is “very very high” to control the leakage.

“Besides, no one is able to approach the well beyond 50 metres because of excessive heat. Our fire tenders are now spraying water and creating a water umbrella in the periphery. By cooling down the periphery, the experts are trying to approach slowly,” he explained.

When asked about repeated tremors felt by people in the area Wednesday night, the OIL official said it was not from underground sources but produced overground.

“When the massive fire burnt a huge amount of oxygen in the periphery, an air vacuum was created. This resulted in sudden air movement and created minor local tremors,” Bormudoi said.

The well, which has been spewing gas uncontrollably for the last 16 days, caught fire on Tuesday afternoon, killing OIL’s two fire fighters at the site.They were found dead in a wetland abutting the site of the major blaze.

The victims have been identified as Durlov Gogoi and Tikheswar Gohain, both assistant operators of the fire service department of the company.

Gogoi was a well-known football player who had represented Assam at several national tournaments in Under-19 and Under-21 categories. He was the goalkeeper of the Oil India football team.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal Wednesday briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the situation and the PM assured him of all possible assistance to the victims and to resolve the situation.

The blaze at the well is so massive that it can be seen from a distance of more than 30 kms with thick black smoke rising several metres high, endangering the local biodiversity in the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park following the blowout on May 27.

The company and Tinsukia District Administration said they have moved around 7,000 people from nearby areas of the gas well site at Baghjan to 12 relief camps.

Already two officials of OIL have been suspended for alleged negligence of duty at the gas well site, while a show cause notice has been sent to John Energy Pvt Ltd, the outsourced private operator of the well.

A PIL was filed at the Gauhati High Court on Wednesday against OIL, John Energy, the Centre and the state for the PSU major’s Baghjan gas well blowout and successive fire, which have damaged life and properties in the area.

Also read: Assam oil well fire claims 2 lives, Baghjan villagers protest ‘lack of prompt response’


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