In Tinsukia’s relief camps, woeful tales of lives wrecked by an oil fire that followed a flood

“We don’t know where our lives are heading.”

That was the helpless observation of a woman in Baghjan village in Assam’s Tinsukia district on June 10, the day after an oil field in the area operated by Oil India Limited burst into flames. Caused by a blowout in a gas well – an uncontrolled leak of condensate and gas – the blast resulted in condensate being sprayed over a 3-km radius, destroying homes and livestock and leaving two firefighters dead.

The blast also damaged tea plantations and eco-sensitive grasslands in the area. Of particular concern was the Maguri Matapung Beel, a wetland in the area that plays host to several migratory species of birds. It is also home to the rare Gangetic dolphins and the Golden Mahsheer.

The woman in Baghajan village, in the eye of the storm, said that all her livestock was gone. She was about to leave her home with as many belongings as she could carry but her husband, who is paralysed, was refusing to go with her.

“He is not willing to leave the house even if he dies,” she said.

The woman said that the “smell of kerosene” had been hanging in the air since May 27, when the gas leak that had occurred at well…

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