Five engineers of Telangana State Power Generation Corporation (TSGenco) were among the nine killed after a massive fire swept through the Srisailam hydroelectric plant on the Telangana-Andhra Pradesh border in the early hours of Friday.
Expressing his condolences, Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed the incident “deeply unfortunate” and said his thoughts are with the bereaved families.
Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao expressed shock over the incident and directed additional DG of CID, Govind Singh, to launch an investigation into the incident.
The deceased were identified as Srinivas Goud (Deputy Engineer), Venkatak Rao (Assistant Engineer), Mohan Kumar (Assistant Engineer), Uzma Fathima (Assistant Engineer), Sundar (Assistant Engineer), Ram Babu (Plant attendant), Kiran (Junior plant attendant). Two employees of Amaron Battery company—Vinesh Kumar and Mahesh Kumar—were also killed in the incident.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Chief Engineer (Srisailam Left Bank Hydro Electric Station) Prabhakar Rao confirmed that all nine bodies had been recovered and sent for postmortem. He said five of these bodies were found at the escape tunnel suggesting that they were trying to come out through it but died of asphyxiation.
The engineers were doing maintenance job of electric panels when the mishap took place. Officials said there were 20 employees on the ground floor of the powerhouse when the fire broke out. Initially, the employees tried to contain the blaze with extinguishers but the situation went out of control. While 11 employees ran out to safety through an emergency exit, nine were trapped inside as thick smoke engulfed the area.
Energy Minister G Jagdishwar Reddy, who was camping at the spot, said: “The tunnel and four-storey underground power house are filled with thick smoke and fire and the rescue personnel made several unsuccessful attempts since morning to go inside. Despite having oxygen cylinders, they found it difficult to enter the place.”
Reddy further said that videos taken by employees when the fire started indicate that it was a short-circuit that caused the fire.
Moreover, officials were forced to disconnect the power supply to the house, further hampering rescue efforts.
The left bank power house is on the Telangana side of the Srisailam reservoir. Half of the dam is on Andhra Pradesh’s side. A 1 km long tunnel that begins at Egalapenta village of Nagarkurnool district leads to the 900 MW left bank power house, which has six units of 150 MW capacity each.
Fire and rescue officials from Andhra Pradesh stationed at the right bank power house in Kurnool district also joined in the rescue efforts.
According to Nagarkurnool district fire officer Sri Das, five fire services were pressed into service after a call was received by the state disaster response and fire services at 11.40 pm on Thursday. Several teams were sent from Kothakotta, Mahababubnagar, Amarabad, Achampeta and Atmakur in Kurnool district.
There are three floors in the basement of the plant. The bottom floor has turbines, the second and the third floors have generators and electrical panels, and the fourth floor or the ground floor is the service bay, Das, who was leading the operation, told indianexpress.com.
Two teams comprising 20 members, including three officials of Singareni Collieries Company Limited, a state-owned coal miner, were roped in for rescue work. Besides this, the NDRF was also called in to trace the missing persons.
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