A blast in Damoh district killed a 65-year-old woman and injured two others on Friday, with police and district authorities claiming that it was caused due to “some unknown inflammable gas from below the earth’s surface”.
Damoh collector Shriniwas Sharma said that preliminary investigation had revealed the explosion was caused due to leakage of an inflammable gas which reached the house through a bore well inside the premises.
The district administration has been notified and experts, including geologists, will investigate the incident. A police case has also been lodged.
Vrindavan Ahrirwar of the Special Armed Force (SAF) 25 Battalion Bhopal, and his wife Sheel Rani were injured in the incident while his mother Raj Pyari died, police said. Ahrirwar had just returned home to visit his family.
The initial assumption was that an LPG cylinder had combusted. However, police found an LPG cylinder intact amidst the rubble. Additional superintendent of police, Damoh, Arvind Dubey told Hindustan Times, “There was a bore well for fetching groundwater inside the premises of the house. Locals told us that there have been cases when inflammable gas has come out from borewells in the district and catches fire. It is likely the inflammable gas was trapped inside the house during the night and exploded in the morning.”
While there have been instances of gas leaks from the ground, Sharma said this was the first time it caused such a blast. He further ruled out that the incident was caused due to ammunition that may have been stored in the building.
According to geologist Prof Arun Shandilya, who has studied the phenomenon of ground water catching fire in Madhya Pradesh for over a decade, an area of over 200 sq kms spread over in Damoh, Sagar, Vidisha, Katni and Satna districts have fissures and leakages through which gas comes out with seasonal variations. The area is home to nearly 500 to 600 million-year-old rocks.
Prof Shandilya pointed out that the old rock layer called Vindhyan rock is covered by a geologically younger rock layer called Deccan trap in these districts. “When drilling is done on the top Deccan trap rocks, it sometimes pierces the fissures in the Vindhyan rocks beneath, from which gas starts coming out,” he explained.
In the last year, there were three instances reported of gas leaking from the earth’s surface, beginning in January when villagers in Damoh reported that ground water and the air coming from borewells were burning with a blue flame. In November, gas with a strong pungent smell emanated from cracks in the floor of a house in Jabalpur’s Bijapuri village. A month later, there was a leak from the banks of Narmada river in Mandla district, with some associating the phenomenon to a jyoti (divine flame). In September 2014, unknown gas started leaking from a field in Khandwa district. Underground geological blasts also created panic among villagers in Betul district last October.