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Gas transfer halts traffic, breach by ‘officer’

Raiganj, April 19: Traffic was hit in and around Raiganj and important intersections in North Dinajpur district as NH34 was blocked at Rupahar today to empty liquified petroleum gas from a tanker that had skidded off the road yesterday.

A team of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) officials began transferring the gas around 1pm with the help of a pump into two other tankers. The civil defence and police personnel had evacuated about 3,000 people from the area and power had been shut down to prevent conflagration during the operation.

A government official in an SUV fitted with a beacon created a flutter as the vehicle entered the restricted zone. The police said the car was coming from the direction of Siliguri, but they could not identify the official. He had a heated exchange with an IOC officer before driving away.

The security manager of the IOC’s Malda division, J.P. Pandey, said the intrusion could have been dangerous. “The fallen tanker has been leaking cooking gas and the transfer was in progress when the car entered the restricted area. I protested, but the official who was in the car did not switch off the engine and drove away after shouting out that he was an additional superintendent of police,” said Pandey.

The tanker was bound for Guwahati from the Haldia IOC refinery when the accident took place at Rupahar, 3km from here. Local people had informed the police and the entire area had been cordoned off.

From the morning, the fire brigade had also been on standby and they set up pumps at six ponds in the locality to tackle emergencies if they arose.

As the police stopped vehicles at Dalkhola to the north and Itahar to the south of NH34, there was traffic chaos all along the route. While heavy vehicles did not ply, small ones took other roads to skirt the blockade.

Hira Saha, a timber merchant who had left for Alipurduar in his car around 7am, said he was stuck in a traffic jam for over three hours at Dalkhola, about 48km from here.

The IOC officials said the tanker would be emptied of its highly inflammable content by nightfall.

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