Assam fire: 3 months on, villagers caught in OIL’s ‘smokescreen’

Assam oil field fire, Baghjan, OIL
For nearly three months, a fire has been raging at OIL's natural gas field in Assam's Baghjan, leaving thousands of people homeless, their crops and cattle destroyed and the ecology affected | Photo - PTI

A gigantic orange and red streak splashed in the night sky appears resplendent from a safe distance of Doomdooma town, about 18 kilometres from the blazing oil field in Assam’s Tinsukia district. But as one travels a few kilometres north-west, the magnitude of the catastrophe starts unfolding.

“Tin mah hobo loi hol, aami eitau relief camp-ote pori asu.... kiman okhubidha... ghar, bagan sob nosto hoi gol (It’s been almost three months now that we have been languishing in this relief camp with lots of hardship. Our homes, tea gardens, everything has turned into ashes),” Tikhnajyoti Hazarika, a resident of Baghjan village, tells The Federal.

Hazarika’s house was just 400 metres from the state-run Oil Indiia Limited’s ill-fated gas well number 5 at Baghjan oil field. On May 27 around 10.30 am, the natural gas from the well started spewing out flames uncontrollably, leaping to a height of above 20 feet, due to a blowout.

A thick whitish smoke soon engulfed the nearby area raining gas condensate oil droplets, destroying vegetation, polluting paddy fields, damaging tin roofs and creating breathing problems for humans, prompting the district administration to evacuate residents near the site.

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