Oil field blaze in India’s Assam likely to rage for three more weeks

Oil blade in India's Assam. Photo: AP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

BAGHJAN, Jun 11, 2020, India Today. Amajor blaze at a gas well of Baghjan oil field in Assam’s Tinsukia district has been “uncontrollably” spewing gas for the last 15 days. Thousands of people have been evacuated from surrounding areas while two firefighters have lost their lives, India Today reported.

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

It will take a few more weeks to douse the fire, officials said. In the meantime, firefighting operations are on and the government has announced a probe and several relief measures.

Here’s all you need to know:

1. Tension has gripped the area after the fire damaged a stretch of the adjoining forest, houses and vehicles, provoking an attack by the locals on OIL employees.

2. Around 7,000 people have been evacuated from the surrounding areas and shifted to 12 relief camps.

3. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Thursday ordered a high-level inquiry into the circumstances that led to a blowout and the subsequent fire.

The probe will be conducted by Additional Chief Secretary Maninder Singh and the report will be submitted within 15 days, a senior official at the Chief Minister’s Office said. “The probe will also look into the allegation of negligence on the part of some officials of the company and its private well operator. It will find out who is responsible for this tragedy,” he said.

The inquiry will try to find out how the entire tragedy unfolded and what measures should be taken so that such incidents never occur in the future, the CMO official said.

4. The Assam government has sanctioned Rs 50 lakh for immediate relief to the people of Baghjan area who were displaced from their homes in the fire.
State Minister of Revenue and Disaster Management Department Jogen Mohan said the state government has initially sanctioned Rs 50 lakh to give relief to the people.

“We have directed the Deputy Commissioner and district administration of Tinsukia to make adequate measures for providing all facilities to the people. Today, my department has sanctioned Rs 50 lakh for the people of Baghjan. I am regularly contacting the Deputy Commissioners and took stock the situation,” Jogen Mohan said.

The Assam minister also announced that the people who lost their properties in the fire incident will get compensation.

5. Oil India Limited will provide Rs 30,000 each to the family of people who were displaced from their homes due to fire and are living in relief camps.
The decision was taken during a meeting held on Wednesday in the presence of Assam Industries and Commerce minister Chandra Mohan Patowary and OIL officials.

The amount will be deposited by Oil India to the bank account of the district administration and subsequently will be disbursed to the affected families and it is an initial and partial compensation as an immediate relief measure.

In the meeting, it was also decided that that the Deputy Commissioner of Tinsukia district will assess the loss of property following the mishap at the oil well and after the assessment, the amount of compensation will be paid by OIL and Assam government.

6. During the minister’s discussion with DC and SP of Tinsukia, Oil India’s CMD assured the Assam minister that the fire at the well site will be doused within 21 days.

7. The CMD also informed the minister that the two firemen of OIL who lost their lives would be posthumously given bravery award by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India and Oil India will give Rs 1 crore to Tikheswar Gohain’s family and Rs 60 lakh to the family of Durlov Gogoi based on their years of service at Oil India.

Both the families would receive pension and other financial benefits and one eligible member from each family would be given a job in Oil India.

8. The two firefighters who lost their lives while battling the massive blaze were cremated with state honours on Wednesday night at their respective native villages.

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

Sonowal called up the PM and apprised him of the situation arising from the gas blowout and the subsequent fire, a CMO official said.

“Gave details of Baghjan fire tragedy to PM Shri @narendramodi ji over phone. Also briefed him about emergency measures taken by @PetroleumMin, @OilIndiaLimited & state machinery. He assured of all possible help to resolve the situation & provide relief to victims,” Sonowal tweeted.

10. Sonowal condoled the deaths and said he had requested the Petroleum Ministry to compensate the victims.

The Assam CM said four OIL employees present at the site had jumped into water but two survived.

He also spoke to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Union minister Jitendra Singh and all assured him help.

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