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Families, including children evacuate

By STACY MOORE Tuesday, July 29 2014

click on pic to zoom in
OIL BOOM: Contract workers of Petrotrin put an oil boom in a ravine close by so that the gas residue will not go further. ...
OIL BOOM: Contract workers of Petrotrin put an oil boom in a ravine close by so that the gas residue will not go further. ...

SEVERAL families, amongst them children, including two eight-month-old-baby boys were forced to evacuate their homes in Digity Trace, Penal, when a Petrotin oil well exploded in the village early yesterday morning.

Fearful for their lives the residents ran to safety at nearby villages while others sought refuge at the homes of relatives.

Following the explosion, gas began emitting into the atmosphere. Eight years ago the residents experienced a similar trauma when a valve in the well’s Pumping Jack malfunctioned, causing thick, black crude oil to shoot into the air also forcing residents to evacuate the village.

Yesterday the residue from the gas smeared the flooring, yards, vehicles and crops. The explosion was identified by Petrotrin from Well Wilson 78(WN-78). A media release from Petrotrin stated that a two-inch union on the well had parted resulting in oil and gas being emitted into the environment.

Petrotrin officials in the release said that the Well has since been isolated and secured and residents within close proximity were evacuated from the area. When Newsday visited the area a few of the residents returned to their homes after hours, some still shaken.

Speaking with Newsday Davanand Lal said that seeing his yard covered in oil residue reminded him of the disaster eight years ago in the village. “We went through something like this eight years ago. But just this time we were hit the worst in the village,” he said pointing to his yard covered in oil residue. He recalled yesterday lying on his bed and hearing a loud explosion.

“I opened my back door to see gas and oil in the air. Immediately I began making arrangements for my family to leave the house. I could not believe this was happening again,” Lal said. Grandfather Haradeo Raju said that securing his grandchildren Adi and Hayden was his priority. “When we heard the explosion we just wanted to get out the house because we did not know what would have happened next. So we acted quickly,” Raju said. He said he and other relatives dressed the infants and began walking out of the street. “We did not want to take the chance and use the vehicles so we walked a little distance with the children, praying and hoping to get them to safety.” Adding, he was not only fearful of the explosion, but the gas stench was strong for infants.

Raju said he made arrangements for another relative to meet them to the top of the Trace with a vehicle. “That is how we were able to get the children to safety. So they are okay and we are just monitoring them.”

Chandra Mungroo still visibly shaken described the unfolding of the morning events as “scary”. “I am still scared. I kept thinking what if someone passes and lights a cigarette and the place just exploded. I kept praying for the safety of my family. I didn’t know this would have happened again like years ago,” Mungroo said.

Father of one Denis Dewar said he rushed his family including his eight year old son approximately two miles away from the village. “The village was smoky and sought of misty and there was a s strong smell of gas. I had to get them to safety.”

Petrotrin Acting HSC specialist HenryThomas said that while officials responded immediately, the extent of the damges were only seen by daylight. He said what was visible on the ground was hydro carbon residue released from the Well.

He said clean-up operations began yesterday morning and officials visited each affected home. Meanwhile the Oil Field Trade Union (OWTU) has summed up the incident as “poor management by Petrotrin”.

OWTU chief education officer Ozie Warrick said that Petrotrin’s management has not placed proper emphasis on maintaining their fields. “...so this is the end result of poor management decisions to take proper care of the assets throughout the State enterprise.” Officials from the Energy Ministry, EMA and fire officials also visited the area.

Investigations are continuing.





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