Gas fire kills 2 firefighters in India, forces evacuations

GAUHATI, India (AP) — A raging fire at a natural gas field in remote northeastern India has killed two firefighters and forced nearly 8,000 people to leave their homes, an official said Wednesday.

Workers have been trying to cap the well since gas started leaking nearly two weeks ago, said Tridiv Hazarika, a spokesman for government-owned Oil India Ltd., which operates the gas field in Baghjan, 550 kilometers (345 miles) east of Gauhati, the Assam state capital.

The well caught fire with explosions Tuesday, when the two firefighters went missing. Their bodies were recovered Wednesday, Hazarika said.

On Wednesday, flames were leaping nearly 50 feet (15 meters) into the sky more than 36 hours after the inferno began.

“We started evacuating people in the vicinity of the well from May 28 onward and have flown in experts from the Singapore-based company Alert Disaster Control,” Hazarika said.

The fire in the periphery of the well has been doused, but it has spread mainly because of the presence of natural gas condensate in the region, Hazarika said.

Hundreds of people came out of villages in the periphery to watch the fire and the thick black plume of smoke which could be seen several kilometres (miles) away.

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