Rescue yet to begin at Assam hydel project after pipeline burst: Officials
Rescuers on Tuesday failed to reach four people trapped inside a powerhouse after hydel project pipeline in Assam’s Dima Hasao district burst Monday morning, a top official of state-run North Eastern Electric Power Corporation’s (NEEPCO).Kopili hydel project said on condition of anonymity.
“We are trying to close the intake gate (which regulates water from the reservoir to the tunnel). We are also trying to lower the level of water in the reservoir by releasing the water,” he said.
The official said that some NEEPCO engineers and experts arrived at the site on Tuesday to take stock. The cause of the puncture in the penstock (pipeline) is yet to be ascertained. “The penstock is sufficiently old like other equipment and is attended to as and when needed,” he official said. The Kopili Unit of the hydel plant was commissioned in July 1988.
Relief and rescue personnel said access to the incident site at the 275 megawatts Kopili Hydro Electric Project is blocked due to flooding and the continuous release of water from the punctured pipeline, which reportedly carries 12,000 litres of water per second.
Dima Hasao district police chief Sreejith T said over 50 people including NEEPCO employees, the ones employed by the contractor and a platoon of security personnel could be evacuated as the alarm went off after the puncture in the penstock.
“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. He also confirmed that the powerhouse is under water and can only be accessed once the water gets drained after the officials are able to close the intake gate.
“Four persons, including three employees of 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 the Kopili Hydro Electric Project.
That the project, built on the Kopili River and its Umrong tributary, is situated in the hills has compounded the complications in relief and rescue operation by the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and fire and emergency services.
“It is not possible to access the site at this point till the pressure of the water goes down,” said S Langthasa, the station officer at the Umrangso Fire Station.
NEEPCO sent a letter to officials of seven districts in Meghalaya and Assam after the incident informing them about the damage to the pipeline of the Umrong reservoir, one of the two of the project.
It said that as a safety measure to control the flow of water all gates of the reservoir are being opened.
The incident happened at 6.30am on Monday, according to R Phukan, the district project officer of the Assam State Disaster Management Authority.
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