Two firefighters dead, one injured, many houses damaged as gas well fire rages in Assam
A massive fire engulfed a gas well in Baghjan area of Assam's Tinsukia a week after a blowout, on June 9, 2020. IANS

Two firefighters dead, one injured, many houses damaged as gas well fire rages in Assam

Guwahati, June 10, 2020

At least two firefighters of the public sector Oil India Limited (OIL) were killed near the site of a massive fire that broke out on Tuesday at a gas producing well in the Baghjan oilfield in Tinsukia district of Assam, where a blowout occurred on May 27 during workover operations.

The burning of gas at the well mouth will continue till the well is capped and that can be attempted only in about five or six days, official sources indicated today.

The fire in around 200 meters periphery of the well 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 the ONGC fireman got injured, the two OIL India firemen could not save themselves. Their bodies have been retrieved," an official press release said.

According to OIL, the well -- Baghjan-5, located about 550 km east of Guwahati, suddenly became active and a blowout occurred while workover operations were being carried out on May 27.

It led to uncontrolled flow of gas from the well. OIL India sought support from the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), also a public sector company, which immediately deployed its Crisis Management Team (CMT). OIL also mobilized a 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 release said.

Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan along with Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal reviewed the situation yesterday with the Oil India, ONGC, international experts and officials of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) through video conferencing.

Sonowal emphasized the need to allay the apprehensions of the people about loss of life and property. Pradhan assured the Chief Minister that there will be full cooperation from MoPNG and OIL. The affected families will be given relief and compensation, as may be finalized with State Government, he said.

Pradhan again held a review meeting through video conferencing today with the crisis management team located at site, officials of OIL India Ltd and Ministry officials. It has been reported that except at the well plinth area, the fire around the site has mostly extinguished. "However, the burning of gas at the well mouth will continue till the well is capped," the release 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, it said.

Around 1,600 families have already been evacuated from the nearby affected areas and are camped in relief camps nearby. OIL has decided to provide an amount of Rs. 30,000 to each of the affected families as an immediate relief.

The well is located in the vicinity of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri Motapung Beel, a wetland. OIL has engaged an accredited agency to carry out environment impact studies in and around Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri Motapung Beel.

"The Ministry is constantly reviewing and monitoring situation," the release added.


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