BURNING OIL LINE SEARS BIHAR 

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By FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Patna
  • Published 12.04.01
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Patna, April 12 :    Patna, April 12:  A massive fire broke out near a railway track in Bihar today after an oil pipeline leakage, charring villages and setting ablaze an adjoining river bed. The fire erupted in Indian Oil Corporation's Barauni-Kanpur product pipeline near a railway track in Raghunathpur, about 70 km from Ara in Bhojpur district. An Indian Oil press release said three villagers received severe burn injuries while at least 50 were left dazed and psychologically unstable "due to exposure to sudden bursts of flame which went up to a height of 15-20 feet". Engineers have reached the site and are repairing the damaged pipeline. Indian Oil said this evening that the flame was under control. An official said the affected pipeline area contained about 2,500 kilolitres of petrol and most of it had gone waste. However, sources said the leakage was unlikely to disrupt the supply of petrol. Eyewitnesses said the pipeline from Barauni caught fire around 6 am when a villager allegedly hurled a burning bidi end without noticing the leakage. "Huge columns of smoke belched out of a paddy field and soon the fire engulfed three villages - Bonkot, Shikaria and Yogivad," said Yudisthir Ojha, a resident of Shikaria. The villagers rushed out of their homes; at some places groups of villagers stealing petrol fought among themselves, too busy to notice that the blaze was menacingly advancing towards them. The flames leapt on to the railway track near Raghunathpur. Around 7 am, the Howrah-bound Poorva Express and the Magadh Express going to Patna were scheduled to pass through. But the trains were stopped midway. The Brahmaputra Mail and the Dadar-Guwahati Express were also stopped and diverted through Gaya and Barauni-Varanasi. Ramesh Kumar, Indian Oil's manager, operations, for Patna, said foam and dry chemical powder were sprayed to control the blaze. Indian Oil sources said the pipe was 33 years old and the cosmetic repairs made earlier had failed to keep it in good health. Sudhir Kumar, district magistrate of Bhojpur, said two people had received severe burn injuries and many people developed breathing problems. "The situation is not grim but if the smoke keeps blowing in one direction, it could be a problem," he said. An Indian Oil official at Barauni said the pipeline was filled with petrol when the fire broke out. "There was heavy leakage in the pipeline at two places. The valves have been switched off but the fire has spread," he said. The leak, which started at 6 am, soon spread further. It flowed down the Cher river and into the villages of Bonkot, Shikaria and Yogiva. The oil was flowing down from a high pipeline and it soon spread to the railway station area too. After the fire broke out, the leak spread fast into the villages and the river. The dancing flames engulfed a part of the railway line and damaged the tracks. The blaze engulfed the river bed as well.