SEPCO of China, which was building the chimney that collapsed at Vedanta Group’s Balco power plant here on Wednesday, has downed the shutters at its local office in Korba.
Korba collector Ashok Agrawal confirmed: “The staff and contractors involved in the chimney construction have fled the city.”
The Chinese company, which won the contract in a global bidding, later appointed Delhi-based Gannon Dunkerley Company to build the 240-metre high chimney at the 1,200-MW power plant, about 220 km northeast of state capital Raipur.
Investigating the cause of the collapse, the state public works department said the contractors had used poor quality materials. “More revealing facts are expected once the investigation begins,” said Agrawal.
But Balco chief executive officer Gunjan Gupta claimed in a press release that continuous rains and lightning during the past few days were probably responsible for the incident.
The district administration, however, has arrested Balco’s human resources and industrial relations chiefs Ranjit Lal and BK Bhatia, respectively, for the collapse of the chimney.
As the death toll kept mounting — 31 in the last count — Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said on Thursday, “No one will be spared for the lapses.”
Eyewitnesses Shyamlal Ragey and Pusao Ram, workers at the project, said all of the 100 people who were in and around the structure at the time of the accident might have been killed.
But only a few bodies had been claimed so far, as most of them were from Chhapra district in Bihar and different parts of Jharkhand, said Korba Superintendent of Police Ratanlal Dangi.
Laxmi Chouhan, who is contesting alleged land encroachment by Balco in the Supreme Court, said the area where the chimney and the power plant were being built was marked for a green belt and botanical garden. Also, a Korba municipal commissioner, JJ Mahobe, said, “We never granted any no-objection certificate to Balco for this project.”