The blaze at the well was so massive that it could be seen from a distance of more than 30 kms. (File)
The opposition Congress urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday to initiate a high-level probe into the gas well tragedy of Oil India Limited (OIL) in Assam and said strict action should be taken against those found responsible for it.
Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi demanded Rs one lakh each for the affected families in the Baghjan area of Tinsukia district as an interim financial assistance.
The well number 5 at Baghjan in Tinsukia district has been spewing gas uncontrollably for the last 16 days and it caught fire on Tuesday afternoon, killing two of OIL''s firefighters at the site.
Submitting a memorandum to the prime minister through Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi, the state unit of the Congress alleged that the Union Petroleum Ministry has not taken the matter seriously.
The memorandum urged the prime minister to institute a high-level inquiry into the incident and take action against those officials who are found responsible for it.
State Congress president and Lok Sabha MP Ripun Bora also demanded in the memorandum that adequate compensation be paid to the families whose land and property were damaged due to the leakage of gas and the resultant fire.
The party demanded that petroleum ministry officials be deputed, along with experts, to take effective steps on a war footing to control the situation and restore normalcy.
Stating that OIL failed to control the gas flow, the Congress said, "Even the Ministry of Petroleum had also not taken it seriously. Till now neither the Minister of Petroleum nor any senior officer from the ministry with experts has visited the spot."
Hitting out at Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Bora said he has taken the matter "very casually" and a timely intervention was needed to bring experts to control the non-stop leakage of natural gas from the well.
"It is very surprising that the Chief Minister of Assam visits different places by helicopter, but he could not spare some time to visit the spot and see the plight of the people in the surrounding areas," the memorandum said.
In a separate letter to Mr Sonowal, Mr Gogoi said a number of houses, vehicles, small tea gardens and some forest areas got burnt in the blaze.
"The disruption has caused a serious threat among the local people and damaged the flora and fauna of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, which is providing a secure home to wide-ranging fauna, including birds and aquatic species. The floating crude oil, as a result of the explosion, is a definite threat to the area''s rich biodiversity," he said.
All efforts must be made to evacuate the people residing in the vicinity of the well to safe places and necessary arrangements should be made for their security, food and shelter, Mr Gogoi said.
"I am sorry to say that despite the alarm raised by people across the state, the government mechanism, including the central government, state government and Oil India Ltd remained silent spectators to this tragedy.
"Therefore, I request you to release an interim financial assistance of Rs one lakh each to the families who have been affected by the incident," the Congress leader urged the chief minister.
Mr Sonowal ordered an inquiry by an additional chief secretary on Thursday into the circumstances leading to the blowout and asked for the report to be submitted in 15 days.
The blaze at the well was so massive that it could be seen from a distance of more than 30 kms with thick black smoke going up several metres, endangering the local biodiversity.
The company and Tinsukia district administration said they have moved around 7,000 people from the nearby areas of the gas well site to 12 relief camps.
Two OIL officials have been suspended for alleged negligence of duty at the gas well site, while a show-cause notice has been issued to John Energy Private Limited, the outsourced private operator of the well.
A PIL was filed in the Gauhati High Court on Wednesday against OIL, John Energy, the Centre and the state government over the incident.