Villagers flee to safer places; Tinsukia district administration, OIL yet to send representatives to ascertain cause of Baghjan oilfield fire, allege locals
Tinsukia: It was not less than a horrific night for the villagers of Natun Rangagora village in Assam's Tinsukia district.
The entire village, less than a km from the site of Baghjan gas well blowout, was in the grip of shock waves since Wednesday night, a day after the well caught fire.
"Maa, bhumikompo (Mom, earthquake) my kids started shouting. Everything started shaking from tin roofs to doors and windows. We were frightened," said Purnima Dutta Baruah, a local villager and a community leader.
According to Baruah, a few minutes later, we again felt shock waves. This time, it was a bit more stronger and the shock waves continued throughout the night at regular intervals. "We slept, but in fear. Wednesday night was nothing less than nightmare."
"We got out of beds to find that the wall had developed cracks. We checked our neighbours and others in the village and most houses had similar damage to walls," Baruah said, adding, "By now, we realised the earthquakes are directly related to the gas well which is under fire since Tuesday. As the fire intensity increases, the shock gets stronger."
Baruah, who has a son and daughter besides an entire family, said, “All of us are living in fear of some mishap from day I of the gas well blowout in Baghjan oilfield. However, we were holding ourselves as the damage was mostly on the other side.”
Meanwhile, the villagers have started leaving their homes. Some shifted to a relief camp in Guijan ME School, while others rushed to their known ones’ place.
“This temporary exodus started on Tuesday evening and continued till Thursday, we are just three families who are yet to leave our village,” added Baruah.
The “blowout” occurred on May 27 at a producing gas well number 5 of OIL, situated in close proximity to the national park and the famous migratory birds habitat Maguri-Motapung Beel, while work over operations for extracting gas from new sand (oil and gas bearing reservoir) at a depth of 3,729 metres was on, leaving natural gas and condensate oil to gush out and spill all around, turning an entire area of 1.5 km, including Baghjan village, into a gas chamber.
Talking to this correspondent, president of eco development committee of Natun Rangagora village, Hiren Senapati, said, the walls and floors of several houses have developed cracks as a result of earthquakes every now and then.
“We are left alone amid the tremors. No one from the district administration has come so far, except circle officer. Shouldn’t a team of experts visit our village by now to find out the exact cause of tremors? It's almost 24 hours now,” he said.
Responding to a question, Senapati said, “We are yet to see any team of experts to come to our village to find out what is happening and why so many earthquakes are all of a sudden.”
Admitting the situation is concerning, a source in district administration said, “We have learnt about the recent developments in Natun Rangagora village. Our circle officer had gone last night and visited the village again today to take stock of the situation. We feel that this is because of the vibration due to the massive sound emerging out from the well.”
The sources added, “Experts can address the exact cause behind this incident.”
Responding to queries, sources further said, “We are yet to send a team of experts to the village. Oil India Limited will have to send a team of experts to look into the matter.”
All attempts to speak to deputy commissioner Bhaskar Pegu, additional deputy commissioner Pranabjit Kakoty and circle officer Sanjib Phukan turned futile till the filing of this report.
Meanwhile, OIL spokesperson Tridiv Hazarika said, "We had sent a 3-member team, led by an office of the rank of executive director (safety), to the village. The team have also felt tremors. However, the global experts have said that they have never seen or heard any vibrations or tremors happening in the surrounding areas of a well blowout in their entire career."