Five suffer burns during Oil India exploration in Assam, spokesperson calls it 'freak accident'

The victims were injured after an electric spark in a truck’s AC unit triggered the inferno.

Published: 11th August 2017 04:19 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th August 2017 04:19 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

GUWAHATI: Five people, including two engineers, suffered burn injuries in a fire during oil exploration by Oil India Limited (OIL) in Assam’s Duliajan. The victims were injured after an electric spark in a truck’s AC unit triggered the inferno, said sources from the Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS), which is probing the incident.

The incident on August 3 has triggered debate on safety in the oil and gas industry and underscored the need for a Parliament ratified independent oil industry safety regulator. The existing Oil Industry Safety Department (OISD) is viewed as toothless.

The mishap occurred inside a specially-designed “well-logging truck”. All the five victims, employees of OIL, were air-lifted to New Delhi in five air ambulances, arranged by the management for specialised treatment at Apollo Hospital. 

OIL said they were out of danger and are recovering.

“After the incident, they were shifted to Delhi. Later, two of them were released. Three were undergoing treatment and are recovering,” OIL spokesman, Tridip Hazarika, told The New Indian Express on Friday.

“This is not a critical mining accident but a freak accident. It has never happened with the OIL. The truck which was involved in the mishap was US-make,” he said.

The Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS) is conducting a probe while the OIL is probing it separately, through its general manager, health safety and environment.

“Two of our officers – an electrical officer from our zonal office in West Bengal and a mining officer from Guwahati – are conducting a probe. A picture will, possibly, emerge by Monday when they return from Duliajan,” DGMS sources said.

“When oil is drilled, the production starts upon reaching the reservoir. A well may produce oil for two to four years. When the production gradually diminishes, there is another operation called the work-over operation. In that operation, the horizon, from where oil is tapped, is changed... 

“To carry out these operations, there are specially-designed trucks. There will be a number of computers installed in them and these operations are computer-controlled. Five people were handling the computers in a truck when suddenly the fire started in the AC unit. There was a gush of flames,” the DGMS sources said. 

They said that the officers conducting the probe were looking for lapses, if any, on the management’s part.

“There is a set of laws and provisions including prosecution. Our job is to find out lapses on the management’s part. If there were any, actions are specified in the laws. The punishment depends on the quantum of dereliction of duty. Sometimes, an erring officer is demoted or his increment is stopped. But if the lapses are grave, we go to court,” the DGMS sources added.

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