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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fire at NH 33 in Jharkhand

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Photo 1&2: Fire at NH 33

Sending bold signals of presence through rising smoke and heat waves for about a month, the underground coal seam fire crept through mine shafts and cracks to reach the closed Kuju mine area of Central Coalfields Limited(CCL) and encircled dangerously a stretch of about 3 km of the National Highway 33(NH33) with giant mushrooms of smoke and flames of fire on August 7, 2009. Kuju is a place located in the newly formed Ramgarh district of Jharkhand state of India, at a distance of about 70 km from Ranchi the state capital. The government has ordered to divert the traffic on NH33 posting a team of Jharkhand police to keep a close watch of the area round the clock.

According to the CCL sources, coal companies are not allowed to mine around National Highways and the underground coal seam fire might had been caused due to making 'rat hole' and spontaneous heating of coal during illegal mining.The coal companies as per rule fill the mine with sand after closing it, so as to avoid any mishappening in future.It was due to illegal mining done after closing the mine that such accidents took place. On the other hand, some experienced people say that a number of mines have been abandoned without filling them properly.The Deputy Commissioner of Ramgarh district has reportedly told the media that the fire would be extinguished by filling the nitrogen foam into the mine though it could take some time. In fact, underground coal seam fires are extinguished by a specific technique of inertization by mine disaster experts. For quenching a coal seam fire, experts construct a dam to isolate the area under fire and fill an inert gas, usually nitrogen into it through a specific pipeline.

It is important to note that a total of 70 mines were reportedly under fire in the year 1972 in the whole region and underground coal seam fires are still continued in many of the coal field areas of the state. However, in this case planning for extinguishing the fire is being formulated seriously , and the CCL has reportedly declared to pay rupees 3.06 crore for the construction of a diversion which is to be completed within coming 90 days.The governor of the state has issued necessary orders for a safe rehabilitation of the people living in the area.

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