Guwahati: The state-owned Oil India Ltd (OIL) lost 467 MT of crude oil production from 59 producing wells due to blockades by the local people and various students’ organisations in two districts of Assam, an OIL release said on Thursday.
The OIL release said that as the firefighters, the NDRF and engineers intensified their efforts to douse the oil well fire in Assam’s Tinsukia district for the third day on Thursday, various students’ organisations and other associations forced OIL to stop its operations in three drilling locations and nine work-over locations spread over the areas of Baghjan (Dighal tarrnag), Barekuri, Dhakual, North Balijan, Bozaloni, Borhapjan, Jorajan and Naharkatiya in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts.
The protesting organisations included All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), All Moran Students’ Union(AMSU) and All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam (AASASA).
“The OIL lost 467 MT of crude oil production from 59 producing wells on Wednesday due to blockade by local people and various students’ organisations at Makum, Barekuri, Hapjan, Lankashi, Nagajan, Hebeda, and Dhakul in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts. Gas production was also affected,” the release said.
At least two firefighters of OIL were killed and four others, including one from ONGC, were injured near the oil well blowout site in Tinsukia district on Wednesday. The inferno was so intense that it could be seen from as far as 10 km away.
OIL spokesman Tridiv Hazarika said that Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan held a review meeting with the crisis management team and OIL officials through video conferencing on the fire in the OIL’s gas well.
It has been reported that except at the well plinth area, the fire around the site has mostly been extinguished. However, the burning of gas at the well mouth would continue till the well is capped.
The fire in around 200 metres periphery has completely burnt about 15 houses, while another 15 houses have been partially affected.
“Over 7,000 inhabitants adjoining the oil well fire site have been shifted to 12 relief camps set up by the OIL,” Hazarika told IANS.
A senior official of the Tinsukia district administrations said that it would take at least four weeks to completely control the blaze.
The massive fire broke out at the leaking natural gas producing well of OIL in Tinsukia district on Tuesday even as an experts’ team from a Singapore-based emergency management firm was trying to plug the leakage of gas and oil condensate for the past 16 days, prompting the state government to seek the Indian Air Force’s help to douse the blaze.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Wednesday dialled Prime Minister Narendra Modi and apprised him about the latest developments regarding the “oil well explosion incident”.
“The Prime Minister assured all help towards the people in the affected area,” an Assam government release said.
Sonowal also spoke to Dharmendra Pradhan and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, seeking help from the IAF to douse the blaze, officials said.
An OIL spokesman said that the fire has been controlled in a 1.5 km radius area but it is still raging as the “uncontrollable” natural gas is being fed by the well’s oil.
Local people said that the inferno has left a trail of devastation in the adjoining areas, including a famous lake. Farmlands with standing crops, as well as ponds and wetlands in the adjoining villages have also been badly affected and the threat is growing with every passing day.
Experts, environmentalists and wildlife activists are worried as the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, known for its feral horses, is less than 2 km away.
Central paramilitary troopers, NDRF, OIL and ONGC engineers and experts are on a war-footing exercise to douse the fire.
The oil well at Baghjan in Tinsukia, around 550 km east of Guwahati, had been leaking gas accompanied by oil condensate since May 27, causing enormous damage to the region’s wildlife, wetlands and biodiversity.