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Assam oil well inferno: Two fire fighters dead, houses damaged

Several thousand people have shifted to safer places and the 12 relief camps set up by the OIL.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Wednesday telephoned Prime Minister Narendra Modi and apprised him about the latest developments regarding “oil well explosion incident”.

“The Prime Minister assured all help towards the people in the affected area,” an Assam government release said.

The Prime Minister”s Office (PMO) tweeted that Modi discussed the situation in Baghjan fire tragedy in a telephonic conversation with Sonowal and “assured all possible support from the Centre”.

Officials of the Tinsukia district administration said that fire fighters Durlav Gogoi and Tikheswar Gohain had been missing ever since a massive fire broke out at the OIL oil well at Baghjan on Tuesday afternoon.

“The cause of deaths of the fire fighters could be drowning in a nearby pond or suffocation in the huge smoke coming out from the massive fire since Tuesday afternoon,” an official told the media.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel recovered the bodies with the help of drones used by the state Forest Department.

An OIL release said that four persons –two from OIL, one from ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) and one contractor”s employee — sustained minor injuries and have been given immediate medical treatment.

An OIL spokesman said that the fire has been controlled in a 1.5-km radius 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.

Experts, environmentalists and wildlife activists are worried as the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, known for its feral horses, is less than two 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 for the past 15 days, causing enormous damage to the region”s wildlife, wetlands and biodiversity.

The massive fire broke out at the well on Tuesday even as an expert team from a Singapore-based emergency management firm was trying to plug the leakage, prompting the state government to seek the Indian Air Force”s help to douse the blaze.

Farmland 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.

Sonowal had on Tuesday spoken to Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh seeking help from the IAF to douse the blaze, officials said.

OIL Chairman-cum-Managing Director Sushil Chandra Mishra had a detailed discussion with Assam Industries and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary, who are camping at Tinsukia, in the presence of Deputy Commissioner (Tinsukia) Bhaskar Pegu, and appraised the latest status of the blowout and actions initiated by OIL.

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