Rescuers had retrieved the bodies of 34 workers till Friday noon from the Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd (Balco) plant in Chhattisgarh and were struggling to remove the debris of a 100-metre chimney that crashed two days ago. Police fear dozens are still trapped underneath.
District authorities at Korba, about 250 km north of state capital Raipur, said 34 bodies of workers were pulled out and the casualty figure could surge once the wreckage of the under-construction chimney at the 1,200 MW coal-fired power plant was cleared.
"The rescue operation is underway with a dozen cranes pressed for clearance work. The rescuers are working cautiously to clear the debris so that survivors, if any, can be pulled out," Korba district collector Ashok Agrawal told IANS.
He said, "It might take at least another two-three days to remove the rubble under which dozens of workers are suspected to be trapped." The workers are mostly from Bihar and Jharkhand.
Gannon Dunkerley and Company Ltd (GDCL) had bagged the award for construction of the 275-metre chimney for the power plant.
A senior state minister Brijmohan Agrawal told reporters, "Dozens of workers hired by Gannon Dunkerley and Company Ltd (GDCL) and several others who were at the canteen and store rooms close to the crashed chimney are missing and are believed to be trapped under the debris."
The minister, who is supervising the rescue operation, said substandard construction material used could be the reason for the chimney collapse.
At the crash site, dozens of workers and women were beating their chests and wailing, fearing the worst for their trapped kin and colleagues.