At least three people are feared dead and four were injured after a penstock pipe of 3.25-metre diameter burst at the 100MW Sorang Hydroelectric plant at Sorang village in Bhaba Nagar sub-division of Kinnaur district on Wednesday night.
A penstock pipe harnesses fast-running, pressurised water and delivers it to the turbines for production of electricity in hydel projects. As the pipe burst around 10pm, two security guards were buried in the ensuing muck, while a resident was washed away. Four others were injured.
The gushing water also damaged the village path and the land adjoining the project, besides destroying some makeshift houses. It is a matter of probe how houses came up in the vicinity of the pipe.
The water also ravaged the link bridge to the village, making it difficult for rescue teams, comprising policemen and staff from the district administration, to transport rescue equipment to the area.
Those missing have been identified as security guards Panna Lal of Mandi district and Pradeep Kumar of Shimla district, and Rajinder Negi, a resident of Rohru, Shimla district, who was visiting a relative in the area.
The injured victims are Ajay Kumar from Kinnaur, Deepak Rana from Hamirpur, Khem Raj from Mandi and Raju Ram from Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand.
Kinnaur superintendent of police (SP) Rahul Nath told Hindustan Times that a severed leg had been found during their search operation that had been impeded by the gushing water.
The incident led to panic among villagers who demanded action against the project. Police personnel were deployed in the area to prevent any untoward occurrence.
Located at a height of 1,255 metres on the Sorang Khad, a tributary of Sutlej, near Sorang village, about 200km from the state capital, the hydel plant is run by the United Arab Emirates government-owned Abu Dhabi National Energy Company PJSC (TAQA).
A statement issued by the company said, “We can confirm (that) two contractors working at the Sorang hydropower plant are missing following an incident, which is believed to involve a failure within a section of the facility’s penstock pipeline.”
It said all other people working on the plant had been accounted for and were safe. “Families of the missing individuals have been informed,” the statement added.
Magisterial probe ordered
Kinnaur deputy commissioner (DC) NK Lath said a magisterial probe had been ordered and would be conducted by the Nichar sub-divisional magistrate, Neelam Dulta.
“Technical glitches and other shortcomings will be probed. Officials from the Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited will assist the investigation,” the DC added.
Plant officials booked
Kinnaur SP Rahul Nath said a case under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been registered against the officials of the company running the plant.
Not a first
In June, three engineers were killed after a water channel safety valve burst during repair work at the 2MW Rongtong hydel plant at Kaza in Lahaul-Spiti district. The 2 MW Rongtong dam is located at a height of 3,600 metres on Rongtong Nullah, a tributary of the Spiti river. Water is tapped at a higher elevation and diverted through a 2,800-metre long channel that had burst. The incident had caused loss of machinery worth crores