Centre, state form high-level teams to probe Assam gas well tragedy

Centre, state form high-level teams to probe Assam gas well tragedy
National Disaster Response Team (NDRF) personnel carry out search and rescue operations after two firemen of Oil India Limited went missing since an oil well at the companys Baghjan oilfield exploded, in Assam's Tinsukia district, Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (PTI Photo)

Guwahati: The Centre and the Assam government on Thursday ordered two separate high-level inquiries into the circumstances leading to a blowout at Baghjan gas well of Oil India Ltd and the fire that killed two persons.

The Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas set up a three-member high-level committee, headed by the Director-General of Hydrocarbons, to inquire into the incident.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal also ordered a high-level inquiry by an Additional Chief Secretary into the blowout incident at the gas well of PSU major.

The well no. 5 at Baghjan in Tinsukia district of Assam has been spewing gas uncontrollably for the last 16 days and it caught fire on Tuesday afternoon, killing two OIL firefighters at the site.

In an order issued late night on Thursday, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas Director R K Kureel said the committee will submit its report within a month.

Centre, state form high-level teams to probe Assam gas well tragedy
NDRF personnel search for the missing fire-fighters at a pond near an oil well as Baghjan oil field continues to burn, in Tinsukia district of Assam, Wednesday. Photo: PTI

The order said that the three-member high-level committee comprises the Director General of Hydrocarbons S C L Das, former ONGC Chairman BC Bora and former ONGC Director T K Sengupta.

The committee headed by Das will identify the lapses in following laid down protocols and procedures, which led to the incident, the order said.

It will also "recommend short and long-term measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents including identifying any gaps in laid down standard operating procedures".

Announcing the committee, the Ministry tweeted: "MoPNG is fully cognizant to the gravity of the situation developing in Baghjan and is committed for the safety and well-being of people in Assam."

The Assam government's probe will be conducted by Additional Chief Secretary Maninder Singh and the report submitted within the next 15 days, a senior official of the Chief Minister's Office told PTI.

"The probe will also look into the allegation of negligence on the part of some officials of the company and its private well operator. It will find out who is responsible for this tragedy," he informed.

The inquiry will try to find out how the entire tragedy unfolded and what measures should be taken so that such incidents never occur in future, the CMO official said.

The blaze at the well is so massive that it can be seen from a distance of more than 30 km with thick black smoke going up several metres high, endangering the local biodiversity in the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, following the blowout on May 27.

Already two officials of the OIL have been suspended for alleged negligence of duty at the gas well site, while a show-cause notice has been to John Energy Pvt Ltd, the outsourced private operator of the well.

Centre, state form high-level teams to probe Assam gas well tragedy

A PIL was filed in the Gauhati High Court on Wednesday against OIL, John Energy, the Centre and the state for the PSU major's Baghjan gas well blowout and successive fire, which have damaged life and properties in the area.

An FIR has also been registered against Oil India and its outsourced private well operator John Energy for the blowout, which has allegedly polluted the environment and village surroundings, police said on Thursday.

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