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Thieves dig tunnel to steal petrol from Indian Oil pipeline, exposed after blast

Indian Oil Corporation Limited spokesperson said the company had observed a drop in the gas pressure in the pipeline used to transport petroleum products from Sonepat to Bijwasan

delhi Updated: Jan 25, 2018 16:31 IST
Shubhomoy Sikdar
Shubhomoy Sikdar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pipeline,Blast,Delhi
A police team discovered the 150-foot long and 2.5-foot wide tunnel that opened into a plot which had a small room, which was allegedly being used to pilfer oil. (Sourced)

Panic hit a residential area in southwest Delhi’s Kakrola on Tuesday night when a sudden loud explosion was heard in a tunnel allegedly dug up by thieves to steal oil from an underground Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) pipeline, which transports petroleum products from Sonepat to Bijwasan. Concentration of gases in it led to an explosion, police said.

While no one was injured in the accident, the explosion blew the cover of a group of men, who had taken a plot on rent five months ago to use it as a “scrap yard” claimed the police.

DCP (Dwarka) Shibesh Singh said that they received a call around 8.30pm about an explosion near Netaji Subhash Institute of Technology.

A police team reached the site and discovered the 150-foot long and 2.5-foot wide tunnel dug inside the room, which was allegedly being used to pilfer oil by the tenants.

“Zubair told us he had just finished drilling up a hole in the pipeline with the help of gas cutter. They then covered the opening in the room with a lid and placed some bricks and a sofa on it. On Tuesday evening, they removed the sofa and moved out and soon after the blast took place. — Police officer

The police managed to arrest one of the men, Zubair, from nearby area after identifying the accused with the help of the landlord. Zubair said he was working with four others. Police suspect that even more number of people could have been involved and are questioning Zubair.

Zubair disclosed that they had taken the plot on rent from owner Balwan Singh five months ago and had dug up the tunnel during this period. “Zubair told us that he had just finished drilling up a hole in the pipeline with the help of gas cutter. They then covered the opening in the room with a lid and placed some bricks and a sofa on it. On Tuesday evening, they removed the sofa and moved out and soon after the blast took place,” said a police officer.

“The IOCL pipeline is used to transport all kinds of petroleum products such as petrol, diesel and aviation fuel. We are trying to find out who was Zubair planning to sell the fuel to. A case under relevant provisions of law has been registered and the landlord has also been booked for not carrying out a tenant verification of Zubair,” said Singh. Investigators further said that leakage of gases from the pipeline got concentrated inside the covered tunnel. The explosion occurred when the accumulated gases were released with high pressure. “There was no combustion of fuel. Prima facie, the cover and weight on top of it had blocked the escape route of the gases leaking from the pipeline,” said an investigator.

‘It sounded like a bomb blast’

Rajiv Sharma, a businessman who lives nearly half a kilometre from the site of the explosion, said he was sitting at home when he suddenly heard the explosion. “We were all shaken. It sounded as if it were some kind of a bomb blast which forced us to come out of our houses. Upon reaching the site, we found that the blast had happened inside a plot which had a small room. The asbestos roof of the room was ripped due to the blast,” said Sharma.

The police also found a truck with large overhead water tankers with some fuel kept in it. Police suspects that Zubair and his accomplice might have transported fuel in the past despite Zubair’s claims that they had not started selling the fuel. IOCL commenced repair work of the pipeline.

IOCL’s spokesperson said the company had observed a drop in the gas pressure in the pipeline and intensive patrolling of pipeline route was started.

First Published: Jan 25, 2018 09:26 IST