Foreign experts seek to leave Baghjan site

Locals demand compensation and block their exit after one of the relief camp inmates died

Updated - July 19, 2020 09:50 pm IST

Published - July 19, 2020 09:30 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Locals blocked all exits from the Baghjan blowout site for more than 18 hours on Saturday.

Locals blocked all exits from the Baghjan blowout site for more than 18 hours on Saturday.

More than a month after they were roped in to help Oil India Limited (OIL) cap a natural gas well that has been blazing after a blowout on May 27 , six foreign experts are reportedly keen on exiting the operation at Baghjan in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district.

OIL officials said they were being persuaded to stay on after virtually being held captive by locals along with 200 personnel from various agencies for more than 18 hours at the site on Saturday.

Also read |Baghjan blaze: Closure of wells may lead to more blowouts, warns OIL

Tinsukia district officials said the locals had blocked all exits from the Baghjan blowout site and forced the foreigners — three from Singapore, two from the U.S. and one from Canada — and the others spend hours in torrential rain. The agitated locals were demanding ₹2 crore as compensation for one of the relief camp inmates who had died at the medical college in Dibrugarh town.

Watch | All about the Assam oil well fire

More than 1,000 families from villages around the Baghjan site were shifted to several relief camps. “We are spending more than ₹30 lakh on the foreign experts daily since they arrived in the second week of June. We cannot afford to let them go when we are closer to taming the blaze and the blowout,” an OIL official said, declining to be quoted.

District officials said the locals relented after prolonged negotiations and let the foreigners and the others leave at around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday.

The locals have also forced OIL to shut down 14 oil and gas wells around the blowout well in the Baghjan oil field on July 7. The shutting down of these wells despite high pressure of gas and crude from below could lead to more blowouts in the area, said oil sector experts.

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