15 pilfers dead in Assam gas leakage

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Guwahati, Sep 20 (UNI) At least 15 people died and five others sustained grievous injuries after inhaling poisonous gas when they were pilfering crude oil from a goods train at Chaiding in Assam's Karbi Anglong district early today.

Police confirmed the death of 15 people, eight on the Assam side and seven on the Nagaland side, as high density Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) spilled out from a tanker, bound from Numaligarh Refinery to Mughalsarai in Bihar, when around 50 pilferers tried to open it. The incident spot falls along the Assam-Nagaland border.

Initial reports had pegged the toll at 25, which was latter rectified after rescue operations were over.

The remote location of the spot and the the bodies of the victims, who had tried to flee after the incident, were found scattered. This added to the confusion regarding the toll.

Police officials in Nagaland said the group forcibly halted a goods train at Chaiding between Dhansiri and Rangapahar stations and tried to unload crude oil from the wagon inside a dense jungle.

Reportedly, the group included two NSCN cadres, the mastermind behind this organised racket, who were also killed.

The bodies of the victims were found at a distance as the pilferers tried to flee after inhaling the poisonous high density ATF.

Eight bodies were brought to Diphu in Karbi Anglong, while seven were taken to Dimapur.

The bodies were handed over to family members for cremation after identification.

Police informed that railway employees were suspected to be involved in the incident as an organized crime syndicate was operating for a long time in stealing crude from the wagons that were coming from oil fields of upper Assam.

For the last couple of months, some miscreants aided and abetted by a section of NF Railway officials were unloading crude oil at gunpoint and last night's incident was one of the attempts, sources stated.

UNI SG-MT KK RN1900

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