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Baghjan gas leak: Assam CM says foreign experts roped in to control fire

Though the fire in the periphery of the well has been extinguished, the company has declared an area up to 1.5 km of radius as ‘red zone’ to avoid any accident.

SNS | New Delhi |

As the massive blowout at Baghjan oil well continues, Assam Chief Minster Sarbananda Sonowal on Sunday said the government is taking help of experts from Singapore, Australia, America and Canada to control the fire in Tinsukia district.

The well number five at Baghjan has been spewing gas uncontrollably for the last 20 days and it caught fire on Tuesday afternoon, killing two of Oil India Ltd’s firefighters at the site. Though the fire in the periphery of the well has been extinguished, the company has declared an area up to 1.5 km of radius as “red zone” to avoid any accident.

The fire at the well is also said to be endangering the local biodiversity in the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park following the blowout on May 27.

Sonowal and Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan visited the site during the day and met leaders of different student organisations at Tinsukia.

The CM informed them that the government is taking help of experts from Singapore, Australia, America and Canada to douse the fire and an expert committee is also being formed to study the environmental impact and suggest remedial steps.

Talking about the environmental impact as well as the reported tremor felt around the fire site, Sonowal said the government is all set to constitute a committee with experts from IIT Guwahati, Regional Research Centre in Jorhat and Geological Survey of India on the issue.

After receiving the feedback from the expert committee, the government will take appropriate time-bound steps, he said.

The CM expressed his gratitude to the student leaders for extending all support and cooperation to the government at this critical juncture. Pradhan said his ministry is taking all possible measures to control the situation.

Representatives of All Moran Students Union, All Asom Mottock Yuba Chatra Sanmilan, All Assam Chutia Students Union, All Adivasi Students Association, Gorkha Students Union, All Assam Students Union, AJYCP and others were present during the meeting.

Pradhan on Sunday said people affected due to the accident will be “adequately” compensated. Sonowal, who accompanied Pradhan to the disaster site and relief camps, said a model and a veterinary hospital, a higher secondary school and a skill development centre will be set up in Baghjan.

“Today I announce that the Baghajan embankment will be constructed at a cost of Rs 27 crore,” he said.

“We will compensate all the affected people. Tea gardens, betel nut trees, fishes, houses and any other properties that have been damaged will be compensated in consultation with the Assam government,” Pradhan told people living in a relief camp.

“Oil India is an Assamese company. It has been working here for many decades. Both the Centre and the state have constituted high-level inquiry committees. We will punish the culprit for this disaster even if he is a powerful man,” Pradhan said.

The company and the Tinsukia district administration have moved more than 7,000 people from nearby areas of the gas well site to 14 relief camps.