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NTPC power plant explosion kills 20, injures 100 in Rae Bareli; Adityanath announces compensation

The accident occurred in the ash-handling section of the plant. An explosion inside the boiler caused cinder and steam to gush out, thereby fatally injuring the workers.

india Updated: Nov 01, 2017 23:23 IST
Rajesh Kumar Singh and Utpal Bhaskar
Rajesh Kumar Singh and Utpal Bhaskar
Hindustan Times, Rae Bareli/New Delhi
Rae Bareli blast,Unchahar NTPC plant,boiler blast
A visual from the spot after an accident at NTPC’s Unchahar plant on Wednesday.(Hindustan)

At least 20 people were killed and around 100 injured in an explosion at a government-run coal-fired power plant in Uttar Pradesh’s Rae Bareli district on Wednesday afternoon. (Highlights)

The plant was shut down and several workers were feared trapped under the debris. The cause of the explosion wasn’t immediately known.

“The number of casualties might go up once the blades of the boiler are cut,” additional director general of police (law and order) Anand Kumar told Hindustan Times.

About 22 people with severe burns were referred to Lucknow, around 110km from the site, the officer said.

A statement from the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) reported a “sudden abnormal sound” around 3.30pm at a new 500 megawatt (MW) unit of the 1,550 megawatt plant in Unchahar. The unit was commissioned this March.

“There was an explosion inside the boiler. After the coal burns it gets deposited and has to be cleared. The people who died were engaged in cleaning,” said a senior NTPC executive, who didn’t wish to be named.

State principal secretary (home) Arvind Kumar confirmed the death toll and number of injured people.

“I saw heaps of dead and badly burnt bodies, there were cries for help when I reached the spot almost 15 minutes after the blast ... It was a horrible scene,” said Ram Prakash, a labourer at the plant.

The accident occurred in the ash-handling section of the plant and smouldering cinder and steam gushed out, burying several workers, according to Lalmani Verma, an engineer at NTPC, India’s largest power-generation utility said in a statement.

“At that time the temperature was more than 140 degree Celsius and pressure was 765 kilogram millimeter square. It is so high that people within a 100-meter radius can be harmed.”

The project supplies electricity to Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Chandigarh, New Delhi and Uttarakhand. The plant generates around 640MW.

The government sent a 32-member team of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) to the spot and sent 150 ambulances.

Experts sounded caution on the industrial disaster.

“An incident involving a high-pressure and high-temperature area can have serious repercussions. This appears to be a very unusual incident because NTPC has a high record of safety. Let us wait for the investigation report,” said Anil Razdan, India’s former power secretary.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who is on a three-day visit to Mauritius, announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for the families of the deceased, Rs 50,000 for the seriously injured and Rs 25,000 for those with minor injuries.

“Every possible help will be given,” he tweeted.

PM Narendra Modi said he was deeply pained by the accident.

Some of the injured are being treated at hospitals in Rae Bareli and Allahabad.

“My sympathies are with the families of the deceased,” Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi tweeted, adding he will visit Rae Bareli on Thursday.

His mother and party president Sonia Gandhi is the parliamentarian for Rae Bareli.

“Sonia Gandhi has asked Uttar Pradesh Congress president Raj Babbar to visit the site and meet victims. She is in touch with the people and partymen in Rae Bareli and getting details,” said her Lok Sabha representative KL Sharma over the phone.

Union power minister RK Singh will reach Rae Bareli by tomorrow to take stock of the situation, official sources said. UP ministers Suresh Khanna and Swami Prasad Maurya left for the city already.

Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi approved the power plant in 1981, named after husband Feroze Gandhi. The unit ran under debt for almost 10 years before chief minister Kalyan Singh handed it to NTPC in 1991 to clear the dues, officials said.

(with inputs from Hindustan)

First Published: Nov 01, 2017 20:59 IST