The death of two children at an unattended oil well outside the Azerbaijani capital has sparked the anger of locals, who accuse the state oil company of negligence.
On May 18, Azerbaijani media reported that the previous day two children, both aged 10, fell into an old oil well and died, apparently by drowning, in Baku's rural suburb of Mashtaga. Locals say the well is nearly 50 meters in depth, and there are seven such unused and abandoned wells in the area.
Azerbaijan's Prosecutor General's Office stated that the district prosecutor's office launched an investigation into the incident on charges of causing the death of two or more people by negligence. No arrests have been reported yet.
Questions were immediately raised about the role of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), which denied any responsibility for leaving oil wells unattended. "The wells located in that area are not owned by SOCAR," the company told the media.
Azerbaijan's economy is overwhelmingly dependent on oil and gas and the country's oil industry is notoriously rife with corruption. Azerbaijan ranked 157th out of 180 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2022.
The tragic news reminded some Azerbaijani social media users how little benefit they see from the country's vast hydrocarbon wealth. "We [ordinary people] don't get any oil income, nor do we have a peaceful life because of it," said one Facebook user commenting on the news.
"SOCAR receives billions in oil and gas revenues, but it cannot clean up the areas under its control - as a result, people die," journalist Hebib Muntezir wrote on Facebook.
"SOCAR not only drinks our blood and exploits the wealth of this country, it also destroys our children and our future," opposition politician Gultakin Hajibayli wrote. "It seems to me that Azerbaijan is also a deep well. A black, deep, bottomless well that silently swallows and exploits us, and destroys our life, happiness, dreams, hopes and future.