Assam Fire India’s Longest Burning Gas Blaze Is Destroying Live


Assam Fire India’s Longest Burning Gas Blaze Is Destroying Live

Labanya Saikia, a single mother of three in India’s north-eastern state of Assam, lost her house to a raging fire that started from a nearby gas well of the state-run Oil India Limited (OIL) in June.

Also lost in the fire was her tiny shop in Tinsukia district that enabled her to raise the three children. She is confident that the house and the shop could be rebuilt. But Ms Saikia says she is heartbroken at the loss of her late husband’s photographs that were gutted in the fire.

“My children will have to grow up without a photograph of their father to look at. After a while, they will probably no longer be able to associate a face to their father’s name,” Ms Saikia said.

The blaze that started on 9 June, following a gas blowout in Baghjan area, has raged for about 150 days now, making it the longest such fire in India. Three people have died in trying to contain the fire, which initially forced 3,000 people in neighbouring villages to leave their homes and take shelter in makeshift camps.

While most of the people have since returned to their homes, scores of families who were living closer to the site of the fire are still in temporary shelters.

The heat, smoke and the gushing sound have made the area a hazardous place. Many locals are complaining of health complications such as anxiety, migraine, loss of appetite and burning eyes,” says local journalist Nawantik Urang.

The OIL said that they had provided 2.5m rupees ($33,858; £26,124) as immediate compensation to each of 12 families that completely lost their homes, and they continue to give 50,000 rupees ($674) per month as livelihood support to each family which is now forced to stay away from their homes.

1px transparent line
  • A similar fire in an oil well – operated by the state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) – in Assam’s Sivasagar district in 1967 was contained after about 90 days of efforts
  • A blowout and fire in another ONGC facility in Pasarlapudi of Andhra Pradesh state took 65 days to control
  • A fire at a well of the OIL in Assam’s Dikom area in 2005 took 20 days to contain
1px transparent line

Some of the locals have been protesting, demanding speedy compensation and a quick resolution of the crisis.

“We have only received funds from the company for our immediate livelihood support. We are yet to receive any compensation for the house and crops damaged in the fire,” said 40-year-old farmer Dandeshwar Borah, who has now been living in a makeshift hut about 1.5km away from the site of the fire.

Officials of the state-run company say they are close to containing the flames, but there are complaints about their initial handling of the fire.

Bijit Bordoloi, a retired manager with a state-run electricity distribution firm, is also unhappy with the OIL’s handling of the situation. His 25-year-old son Arnab, an engineer with the OIL, was one of the three people who died in efforts to contain the fire.

Assam Fire India’s Longest Burning Gas Blaze Is Destroying Live


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here