Jharjhariya village in West Tripura is on fire, quite literally. With four incidents of sub-surface seepage and ground fires being reported in a year, there are new fears that the state might just be lying on an active fault-line.
Daily wage labourer Uttam Das was in front of a shop at Jharjhariya in Madhupur Gram Panchayat, 18 km from Agartala city, on Wednesday morning when he saw white smoke billowing from cracks in the soil with hissing sound of gas leaking from the surface. There was an hour of panic, till fire tenders reached the spot and extinguished the flames.
“Initially, I thought it was a short circuit, but then I saw smoke coming out of the ground. A few minutes later, cracks emerged accompanied by fire from below,” Das told indianexpress.com on Thursday. He said there were more fires in the area and the flames went on till thunderstorms put things to rest in the night.
Till midnight, almost the entire village of 700-odd people crowded at a local playground to figure out what was happening. This was an unprecedented experience to all of them.
A team of geologists from Tripura Science and officials from Space Application Centre too reached the spot and collected samples on Thursday afternoon. Speaking to indianexpress.com, Abhishek Choudhury, a Geologist and Research Officer at the Tripura Science and Space Applications Centre, said the samples from Jharjhariya are similar to what was seen in Baishnabpur, Jalefa and Khagrabasti villages of South Tripura district over the past year. In all these incidents too, there were fumes leaking from the surface, small fires and several black solid substances, which were mistaken for magma residues.
“Samples from Jharjhariya village will be sent to Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad for geo-chemical analysis. If this turns out to be similar to previous incidents, it might mean that Chittagong Tripura fault-line might have become active,” the geologist said.
Asked what it would mean for Tripura to be on a new fault-line, the geologist explained that micro-volcanism may take place here, which could be minor quantities of gas seeping from the sub-surface, small fires from underneath or hot water springs as part of hydro-volcanism phenomena. However, he said there was hardly any possibility of any major volcanic activity.
Amtali Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Ajay Das said ONGC officials had also been called in to evaluate the situation. A senior ONGC officer, who didn’t wish to be named, said there is no hydrocarbon deposit in the area and this could have caused the gas or fire outburst.
Parts of Tripura and Mizoram are prone to earthquakes as they come under seismic zone V within the Indo-Myanmar fold belt. Tripura has been a damage risk-zone for years. As per the Vulnerability Atlas of India, 1997, Tripura was marked as “very high earthquake damage risk-zone” — category V, magnitude 7.0 to 7.5.