| The fire in the ditch seen from the Up tracks. The embankment on which the Down tracks run can be seen at a distance. A Telegraph picture
Kamrangaguri (New Jalpaiguri), Dec. 20: A fire broke out this morning in a ditch containing residual crude oil near railway tracks at Kamrangaguri, about 5 km south-west of Siliguri, creating considerable tension among residents and security agencies.
The oil had been abandoned a year ago in the ditch, which is located in between the Up and Down main rail tracks from New Jalpaiguri (NJP) station, and is located just a few metres from the Mahananda rail-bridge. The oil caught fire possibly from a lit bidi.
Three fire engines from Siliguri reached the remote spot traversing dirt roads to douse the flames in half an hour.
“Around 8.30 am, we saw heavy black smoke billowing out of the area. We rushed to the spot and found a fire raging on the crude oil and water in the ditch,” said Anadi Roy, a resident of the area. “The adjacent grass soon caught fire even as we fought the blaze.”
On July 15, 2004, a massive fire had broken out in the same area, following an explosion in the Guwahati-Barauni pipeline of Oil India Limited (OIL). The KLO was suspected of causing the blast. The pipeline at that time used to run parallel to the railway line.
After the blast, the pipeline route was shifted, so that now it cuts across the tracks before heading towards Siliguri, OIL sources said.
“It seems some amount of crude oil, which had spilled over during the 2004 incident, remained on the water that had accumulated in the ditch in the rainy season. While most of the water dried up during winter, the oil remained. There are high chances that somebody might have thrown a bidi stub or a matchstick which started the fire,” said Jalpaiguri police chief Tripurari.
Sukumar Ghosh, the officer-in-charge of Siliguri fire brigade, said: “The authorities concerned should have taken steps to cover the residual crude oil floating on the accumulated water in the ditch which caught fire today.”
Tripurari, along with deputy inspector-general of police R. Tyagaraju, rushed to the spot — considered sensitive due to the presence of the bridge over the Mahananda — after being informed of the blaze. Both the police officials reaffirmed that there was nothing to suggest a sabotage this time, in contrast to the incident in 2004.
Officials from OIL also visited the spot this morning. “Experts from our organisation will be here to investigate the incident and try to ascertain the cause of the fire,” said Anupam Saikia, an assistant engineer of OIL posted at the NJP depot.
The security agencies’ concern could be gauged from the fact that 26 constables from the Ranidanga Sashastra Seema Bal camp were pressed into service to provide assistance at the spot. Later, BSF men went to the site as well to check the situation.