A massive fire has broken out at an oil field in north-eastern India, after gas that had been leaking for two weeks ignited, sending plumes of smoke and flames into the sky, and reportedly setting fire to nearby homes.
2 firefighters have died. Five local deaths in the area are being investigated for potential links to the gas well, which has been leaking “uncontrollably” for two weeks.
The gas well at the oil field, in Baghjan in the Tinsukia district of Assam state, started leaking in late May.
The fire and explosion came 13 days after the well began leaking gas and condensate following a “blowout” due to pressure changes.
Tuesday’s explosion sent bright orange flames and huge, black plumes of smoke high into the sky, visible 10km (six miles) from the oil field.
Many houses damaged in devastating fire at Baghjan oilfield, Assam that been spewing gas since May 27. Flames visible from more than 80 KMs away. Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal requested defence minister Rajnath Singh to deploy Indian Air Force in controlling blowout-induced fire(2) pic.twitter.com/KwDoAyD7eP— Nandan Pratim Sharma Bordoloi 🇮🇳 (@NANDANPRATIM) June 9, 2020
“While the clearing operations were on at the well site, the well caught fire,” Oil India said in a statement, adding that a firefighter suffered “minor injuries”. About 200 engineers and workers – including a team of experts who arrived from Singapore on Monday – are trying to stem the leak within four weeks, the company said.
The fire has spread to nearby villages, injuring at least six people. People living in neighbouring villages fled in fear, and said about hundred of their homes had caught fire. “The situation is very bad. It is spreading. I knew it was going to happen,” local environmentalist Niranta Gohain said.
Very horrific situation at #BaghjanOilField and nearby areas. Got inputs that many houses of village are on fire.— 🇮🇳एक भारतीय🇮🇳 (@ViShNu_SiNgH74) June 9, 2020
Hope that situation is brought under control pretty soon.
Feeling sad for the loss…hope lives are saved..@OilIndiaLimited #Assam pic.twitter.com/DtNqlZCeTa
Authorities had established an exclusion zone of 1.5km and about 2,500 people (1,600 families) had been evacuated from their homes.
Officials on Monday ordered an inquiry into the deaths of five people from the areas surrounding the field, although the district administration said a preliminary investigation suggested they died of natural causes.
Two firefighters have died while trying to put out a massive oil well fire which exploded in India’s north-eastern state of Assam.
#Baghjan oil well has been spewing gas after a blowout on 27 may.Over 100 houses gutted in the massive fire.#assamgasleak#BaghjanGasLeak #BaghjanOilField #OilIndia #SaveDibruSaikhowa#save #maguribeel— Dharitri Bora (@DharitriBora4) June 9, 2020
video courtesy:copied from social media pic.twitter.com/NwSseXxNdH
The company called for help from the army after local residents allegedly attacked its vehicles after Tuesday’s explosion, spokesman Tridiv Hazarika said.
Water has been pumped to the well over the past two weeks to prevent the gas catching fire.
Assam’s chief minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, said firefighters, police and the army were being sent to the site, which is 500km east of Guwahati, the state’s biggest city.
It’s been 2 weeks since oil well of @OilIndiaLimited in Assam leaking gas and today fire broke out. These are the the visuals sent from locals over there. @FFFIndia @GretaThunberg @Fridays4future @vanessa_vash @fffguwahati @LicypriyaK https://t.co/U32OvDo7L4 pic.twitter.com/tp23iLOcTm— Sachin Jacob🌍 (@sachinjacobk) June 9, 2020
Environmentalists are increasingly worried about the impact of the gas leak.
The well was producing 100,000 standard cubic metres per day (SCMD) of gas from a depth of 3,870 meters before the blowout in May, according to Oil India.
Massive fire has exploded in Baghjan Oil Field, Assam! Thousands are in danger rushing to reach safe places. Houses are burning and I see no one from the ministry speaking on such a big disaster that our friends from North- east are facing. SHAME!#BaghjanOilField pic.twitter.com/bEZeRpo7qM— Damni Kain (@DamniKain) June 9, 2020
The natural gas well of PSU major Oil India Limited (OIL) at Baghjan is near the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, an ecologically sensitive park and wetland, famous for its wildlife. Local news reports mentioned the death of an endangered Gangetic river dolphin and several varieties of fish.