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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Assam: Heavy rains, floods hamper ops to control gas blowout, fire

The authorities had estimated that the blowout and the fire would be contained by July 7. However, the rains and subsequent floods and bridge collapse have complicated matters.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: June 25, 2020 10:09:10 pm
On June 9, the well caught fire, leading to the death of two firefighters. (Source: OIL)

Operations to control the gas blowout and fire at Oil India Ltd (OIL)’s Baghjan 5 well in Assam’s Tinsukia district have hit a roadblock, with torrential rains leading to floods and the collapse of a bridge near the site of the gas leak. “After heavy rainfall since the last 3 days, the area has been badly hit by flood and the site has been inundated with floodwater,” said a release from OIL on Thursday.

On May 27, the OIL-owned gas well experienced a blowout of natural gas, threatening thousands who lived in the vicinity as well as the rich biodiversity of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and the Maguri-Motapung wetland located close by. On June 9, the well caught fire, leading to the death of two firefighters.

The authorities had estimated that the blowout and the fire would be contained by July 7. However, the rains and subsequent floods and bridge collapse have complicated matters.

The collapsed bridge — located on the road which connects Doomdooma to Baghjan, where the well is located — serves as a crucial route to transport equipment necessary for the plugging operations.

“This has proved to be a tremendous challenge in terms of carrying out the operations as per scheduled time,” said OIL spokesperson Tridiv Hazarika.

As per the OIL release, “All movement over the bridge has stopped which is hampering the movement of men and material to Baghjan EPS. On request from OIL, Army personnel will assess the condition of the bridge to find out the next course of action.”

Assam, Assam rains, Assam floods, Assam oil leak, Assam oil fire, Baghjan oil fire, Assam news Army has been called to construct a temporary bridge (Screengrab)

Shiladitya Chetia, Tinsukia SP, said that one of the two other alternate routes were also under pressure. “The road that goes from Doomdooma to Dhola via Tippul Tea estate is under immense pressure because of the rains — that is why movement of heavy vehicles is not advisable,” he said. With this, there is just one route — Plastic Park Road — through which Baghjan is accessible now. As per OIL, this road is “narrow at places resulting in challenges in movement of men and material.”

Hazarika said that OIL is pumping water from the Dangori river — which has reached the danger mark —but a number of pipes channelling the water are now submerged. “We are still holding on to the July 7 deadline, but if it continues like this, if more bridges collapse, it will be very difficult,” he said.

The release further stated: “The Kill Pump area is completely flooded. OIL CMT Water Pump area is submerged with flood water. Dangori River has already started overflowing. All connecting roads to the site have been submerged with flood water.”

The rains have affected people in the relief camps as well. (Source: Niranta Gohain)

The incessant rain has also affected the people rehabilitated in 12 relief camps due to the blowout and fire.

“People from the Notun Rongagora village, who were in Guijan High School relief camp, had to be shifted to the Borghuli High school Wednesday night,” said Sanjib Phukan, Circle Office, Tinsukia, adding that water had entered some rooms of the school.

On June 9, the well caught fire, leading to the death of two firefighters. (Source: OIL)

However, the villagers returned to the relief camp by Thursday. The rains have also impeded the surveys for assessment of damage by the district administration. Till now assessment has been done for 500 families in Doomdooma and Tinsukia Circle

The current floods in Assam began last week, and have affected 1,89,314 people in nine districts — Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Biswanath, Golaghat, Jorhat, Majuli, Sivasagar, Tinsukia and Dibrugarh. As per a release by the Assam Disaster Management Authority, 13 people have died due to floods this year — nine in the end of May and beginning of June, and four this week.

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