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Assam Oil Well Fire: Massive fire at Assam’s Baghjan oil field may take 4 weeks to douse; Army, IAF called in

One of the oil wells at Baghjan Oil Fields in Tinsukia district of Assam suffered a blowout on May 27 and started leaking oil and gas.

Jun 10, 2020 12:34 IST
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A massive fire erupted at a leaking natural-gas oil well in Assam’sTinsukia district on June 8, 2020. The oil well, part of Baghjan oil fields, is owned by Oil India Limited (OIL). The oil well has reportedly been leaking gas since the last 14 days after it suffered damage following a blowout on May 27.

A team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been deployed in the area since the time of the gas leak. The Indian Air Force and the Army have also been called in to assist in the firefighting operations. The entire area has been cordoned off by paramilitary forces. 

The raging fire at the oil well can be seen from a distance of 30km and the smoke emerging from the fire poses a great risk to the local biodiversities. Around 6,000 people living in a 1.5-km radius of the natural gas producing well have been evacuated and sheltered in relief camps. 

How did it happen?

One of the oil wells at Baghjan Oil Fields in Tinsukia district of Assam suffered a blowout on May 27 and started leaking oil and gas. The oil field caught fire on June 9 though the reason for the fire is still to be ascertained. According to officials, it is expected to take at least 4 weeks for the authorities to control the fire. 

What is a blowout?

A blowout is an uncontrolled release of crude oil or gas from a production well. It is generally caused by machinery failure. 

What measures are being taken to douse the fire?

At least 15 fire tenders were on the spot to douse the fire. The Assam government has deployed a team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), district officials, police and paramilitary forces to bring the situation under control.

The IAF has sent three fire engines, and the Army has reached the area and is on stand-by after Assam CM appealed to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh for assistance.

A three-member team of disaster management experts flew in from Singapore on June 8 to control the situation. As per the expert team, it may take about four weeks to cap the leaking well.

Damage Caused to Biodiversity

•  The oil leakage since the past 14 days has been causing grave damage to the region’s wetlands and biodiversity. The Baghjan oil well is right next to the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and only a kilometre away from Maguri-Motapung wetland.

•  The images shared by locals on social media reveal depositing of gas condensate in the Maguri Beel wetland. They also show carcasses of endangered Gangetic dolphins and other aquatic life floating in the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.

•  The national park, spread across 340 sqkm, is a biosphere reserve and home to 36 mammal species including tiger, Gangetic dolphin, feral horses and 382 bird species. According to locals, several fishes, Gangetic river dolphins and birds have died due to the gas leak since May 27.

•  The paddy fields, ponds and wetlands in the adjoining villages have also been contaminated by the leakage and the threat only grows with each passing day.

•  Many houses near the Baghjan oil field have been destroyed in the fire. Nearly 1600 families were evacuated from the area. Oil India Limited has announced financial relief worth Rs 30,000 to each of the affected families.

Causalities

Two firefighters have died in the massive fire at the Oil India gas well in Tinsukia district. Their bodies have been recovered. Fire flames continue to erupt from the gas well.

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