4 still missing as water pressure blocks Assam rescue operation
Four persons are still feared trapped in a hydroelectric power plant in southern Assam’s Dima Hasao district more than 24 hours after it got flooded because of a pipeline burst even as high water pressure continues to block rescue efforts, officials said.
The damaged penstock (pipeline) is connected to one of the two reservoirs of the state-run North Eastern Electric Power Corporation’s (NEEPCO) Kopili hydel project on the Kopili river.
According to Sreejith T, superintendent of police, Dima Hasao, over 50 people including, several NEEPCO employees, were evacuated as soon as the alarm went off after the puncture in the penstock on Monday. “The four who were working in the control room of the powerhouse, which is two floors below the ground floor, could not get out in time,” he said.
The SP confirmed that the powerhouse could only be accessed once the water is pumped out. “Four persons, including three employees of the NEEPCO and one employee of a contractor who is involved in maintenance were present at the powerhouse when it got flooded. They are yet to be accounted for,” said Rondeep Changkakoti, who heads the human resource department at project.
Rescue personnel said the access to the site has been blocked due to flooding and continued release of water from the punctured pipeline which can carry 12,000 litres of water per second. Relief and rescue operation is getting further complicated due to incessant rain and the project being located in a hilly area.
“It is not possible to access the site till the water pressure goes down,” said S Langthasa, station officer at the Umrangso Fire Station. Teams of the State Disaster Response Force and fire and emergency services, too, could not get to the powerhouse.
On Monday, NEEPCO sent a letter to officials of seven districts in Meghalaya and Assam informing them about the damage to penstock (pipeline) of the Umrong reservoir, and said that as a safety measure to control the flow of water, all gates of the reservoir were being opened. “There has been a puncture in the water conductor system today whichresulted in flooding,” said HK Deka, executive director, NEEPCO.
The incident happened at 6.30 am on Monday, according to R Phukan, the district project officer of the Assam State Disaster Management Authority.
Asked what could have led to the puncture in the pipeline, A second senior official of NEEPCO said it was yet to be ascertained. “The penstock is sufficiently old like other equipment and is attended to as and when needed.” The plant was commissioned in July 1988.