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3 foreign experts hurt in Assam blowout site mishap

3 foreign experts hurt in Assam blowout site mishap
Security personnel stand guard outside Astha Hospital where the 3 foreign experts are admitted.
GUWAHATI, JULY 22 (IANS) | Publish Date: 7/22/2020 2:03:47 PM IST

An accident at the natural gas blowout site in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district on Wednesday injured three of the six foreign experts involved in the dousing of the well fire raging for around 43 days, officials said.

According to officials of Oil India Limited (OIL), three experts of Singapore-based firm ALERT -- Anthony Steven Reynolds, Doug Dallas and Craig Neil Duncan -- suffered minor burn injuries while removing a spool from the well head. “The three injured experts were provided immediate medical treatment by doctors at the well site. Subsequently, they were taken to the burn unit section of Astha Nursing Home at Dibrugarh. They have been released after dressing of the burn injuries. It is expected that operations would once again resume at Baghjan on Thursday,” the officials said. Natural gas and oil condensate started leaking from the state-owned OIL’s oil well at Baghjan in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district around 57 days ago and it later caught fire.

Besides hostile weather, OIL has been facing numerous other problems to put out the fire and cap the gas leak at Baghjan, around 550 kms east of Assam’s main city of Guwahati. OIL officials said that despite partial withdrawal of agitation by locals, youth organisations and others including a section of local people agitating for higher compensation even as state-owned OIL continues to lose production of oil and gas.

So far, since May 27, over 15,590 MT of crude oil and around 34 million standard cubic metres per day of natural gas has been lost as a section of agitators continue with their protests in a few locations in Tinsukia district.

Though a section of agitators called off the protests and road blockade last month, others continue to demand higher compensation for the affected people and hold OIL responsible for the mishap. 

OIL has so far provided Rs 30,000 to each of the affected families. OIL officials said transportation of consignments, comprising various heavy machineries and equipment, from Rajahmundry (Andhra Pradesh), Vadodara (Gujarat) and other places was delayed due to COVID-19 protocols and standard operating procedures.

In the meantime, the Army has built a 150-metre bridge over a water body to facilitate technical works to control the gas leak and oil well fire, following a request from Tinsukia Deputy Commissioner Bhaskar Pegu.

Around 10,000 people have been evacuated and sheltered in 14 relief camps as the fire damaged many houses and various other properties. Local people said the fire had left a trail of devastation in the adjoining areas, including a famous lake. Farms with standing crops as well as ponds and wetlands in the adjoining villages have also been affected.

Various NGOs and government bodies, including Tata Energy Research Institute, have been conducting environmental and pollution studies in view of the fire and blowout of natural gas and oil condensates. The TERI is also arranging drone-fly cameras for aerial photography and videography of affected areas and surveys are being carried out depending on weather conditions.

“Heavy rain and floods affected the operation and damaged many machinery and makeshift structures. Despite that officials, engineers and workers continued to work to control the situation,” the OIL official said.

US and Canadian experts and engineers, who are associated with Singapore-based ALERT, firefighters, NDRF personnel and OIL and ONGC engineers continued their efforts to check the gas leak and douse the well fire at Baghjan.

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