Russian hydro plant accident kills 12

Author: Associated Press

The cause of yesterday’s accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya plant was
unclear. Federal investigators said a transformer exploded during repair
works, destroying walls and the ceiling in an engine room where turbines are
located and causing the room to flood.

The plant’s owner said the flooding occurred due to a pressure surge in water
pipes.

Twelve workers were confirmed dead and 64 were missing, Russian Emergency
Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu told the Itar-Tass news agency.

Some of the dead had drowned and others were crushed by debris, Ministry
spokesman Roman Dotsov told The Associated Press, adding that 14 survivors
were hospitalised with a range of injuries, including concussions and
exposure.

Rescue workers combed through the cavernous engine room today, trying to find
the missing workers.

The accident shut down the power station, which supplies several major
aluminum plants. The government said electricity supplies from other power
plants were being rerouted to help cover the shortfall, but outages were
reported throughout the region.

The plant’s dam, a towering structure that stretches about a kilometre across
the Yenisei River, was not damaged and towns downstream were in no danger,
Shoigu said.

The accident produced an oil spill, however, and a slick as large as 25 square
kilometres was floating downriver, the Natural Resources Ministry said.

Two of the plant’s 10 turbines were destroyed and a third was seriously
damaged, said Vasily Zubakin, acting chief executive of the plant’s owner,
RusHydro. He said the company was still assessing the state of the remaining
seven turbines.

Shoigu said the repairs would be difficult.

“We’re probably talking about years rather than months to restore three of the
10 turbines,” he said on state-run television.

The world’s largest aluminum producer, Rusal, was operating as usual, with its
smelters being powered from other plants, company spokeswoman Yelena
Shuliveistrova said.

The company was talking with the government about reducing output to free up
energy supplies needed elsewhere in the region, Rusal said.

Half of the residential buildings in Abakan, the capital of the Khakassia
region where the plant is located, were left without power. Residents were
stocking up on basic supplies and gasoline, Mayor Nikolai Bulakin said on
Ekho Moskvy radio.

Abakan, home to 160,000 people, is located 180 kilometres north of the plant.
Power shortages also were reported in the Tomsk and Kemerovo regions.

It was not immediately clear how many people were potentially affected by the
accident. The plant satisfies 10 per cent of Siberia’s energy needs,
according to Russian media reports.

The Sayano-Shushenskaya plant was working at record capacity in June and July
due to high water levels in the river, RusHydro reported last week. The
plant went into operation in 1978.

Aging infrastructure has long been regarded as a key obstacle to Russia’s
development.

Analysts have warned that Russia needs to boost its power production
significantly to meet the growing demand of industrial producers or it would
face regular power shortages in the next several years. Yesterday’s accident
put these plans in jeopardy.

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