Image credits: Parag Chetia, Sachin Bharali, and Banajit Nayak.
A massive fire broke out in Assam’s Baghjan oil fields, on Tuesday, after the blowout at the oil well turned into a raging inferno. According to reports, the oil well, belonging to the public-owned Oil India Limited (OIL), was uncontrollably spewing natural gas- a blow out after an explosion took place on May 27.
The fire occurred when cleaning operations were being carried out. The blaze has claimed lives of two OIL firefighters besides injuring four others, said OIL in a statement.
Amidst the COVID-19 scare in the state, the incident has displaced around 1,610 families, and forced them to stay in relief camps. A report states that the relief camps are in a poor condition, and that social distancing measures aren’t being implemented.
The blow-out has severely affected the aquatic ecosystem, the flora and fauna surrounding the oil field. The incident, on Tuesday, has destroyed the Maguri-Motapung Beel wetland, and has come as a threat to the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, less than a kilometre aerial distance from the site.
A press statement by the OIL management said that it will take at least four weeks to douse the fire. A 3-member expert team from a Singapore-based firm had arrived on June 7 to assist OIL in controlling the gas leak.
A part of the wetland being destroyed because of massive fire caused by the condensate from the blowout. Environmentalists and green activists have condemned the incident and have criticised OIL for making such an error, which has now put the area’s biodiversity at stake.
The blowout led to an oil spill and layers of condensates in the nearby water bodies, which has claimed a riverine dolphin besides many fishes. The subsequent fire has severely affected the livelihoods, agriculture lands, tea plantations, wetlands, and wildlife in the area.
After such an enormous loss of biodiversity, livelihood and economy, OIL announced compensation to the families of the deceased and to all affected villagers. Several reports have emerged on social media which points out that there is no medical help in the relief camps yet.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has said that a high-level team is monitoring the situation and the fire will soon be doused. OIL has suspended two officials in this regard and has issued a show-cause notice to a Gujarat-based private firm John Energy, outsourced gas well private operator.