Deadly Inferno at Oil Field in India Sends Gigantic Flames Into the Sky, Burns Houses and Prompts Evacuations of Thousands of Terrified Locals

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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.

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Huge fire breaks out at India gas well blowout after the well had been leaking ‘uncontrollably’ for two weeks. Picture: Partha Sarathi Das/AFP/Getty Images

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.

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.

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.

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.

Environmental disaster

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.

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.

Meanwhile another inferno, the ‘Sepulveda Fire’ is spreading in Bel Air, Los Angeles. More fire news on Strange Sounds and Steve Quayle. [Gaon Connection, India Times, Guardian, BBC]

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