Inquiry ordered into deadly Indian power plant blast as toll rises to 29

The 1,550-megawatt (MW) plant, which employs around 870 people and supplies electricity to nine neighbouring states, has been shut down.
The 1,550-megawatt (MW) plant, which employs around 870 people and supplies electricity to nine neighbouring states, has been shut down. PHOTO: AFP

LUCKNOW, India (REUTERS, AFP) - Indian authorities on Thursday (Nov 2) ordered an inquiry to determine within seven days the cause of a blast at a coal-fired power plant that killed 29 people and injured more than 100 – one of the country’s worst industrial accidents in years.

Dozens are being treated for critical burn injuries sustained Wednesday when a boiler pipe burst at the plant run by India’s largest state-owned power utility in Uttar Pradesh state. 

The government-run firm, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), said the death toll had risen to 29 by late Thursday. 

“Twenty nine persons have succumbed to injuries and 85 are being treated at hospitals,” NTPC said in a statement.  “NTPC family expresses deep grief, support and condolence for the deceased workers who contributed towards providing 24x7 power to all.” 

One survivor described being engulfed by burning hot steam when the explosion occurred.

The man lost consciousness and woke up in hospital covered in burns, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

The 1,550-megawatt (MW) plant, which employs around 870 people and supplies electricity to nine neighbouring states, has shut down the units where the boiler exploded.

 

“Blockages in the flue gas pipe in a unit led to the blast. Hot flue gases and steam let out by the blast severely injured several workers,” Sanjay Kumar Khatri, the top government official of Rae Bareli district where the plant is located, told Reuters on Thursday. 

“A magisterial inquiry has been initiated. This two-member technical team will submit findings within seven days,” Khatri said.  

NTPC is the country’s top power producer and accidents have been rare at its facilities.  

Senior state police official Anand Kumar said in a statement posted online on Wednesday that ash had piled up in the furnace beneath the boiler, which led to building up of pressure resulting in the explosion.  

The state government has offered cash compensation of 200,000 rupees (US$3,097) to the families of the deceased, 50,000 rupees for the severely injured and half of that to those who sustained minor injuries, Khatri said.  

The plant in the town of Unchahar supplies electricity to nine states, NTPC’s website showed. But the company said other facilities would make up for the shortfall and outages were unlikely.  

The 500 MW unit, where the mishap occurred, had been operating since April and is under shut down after the accident. The other five units of the station are operating normally, NTPC said in a statement.  

“This is most unfortunate. NTPC has initiated an inquiry into the incident. We are not a company that will take any risk. We have so many units that if power cannot be supplied by one, it can be given by the other. It was a sudden accident,” an NTPC official, who did not wish to be quoted, said.

Workplace accidents are common in India, where poor safety standards and lax enforcement of regulations have led to horrific deaths.

The 1,550-megawatt (MW) plant, which employs around 870 people and supplies electricity to nine neighbouring states, has been shut down.

Its owner the National Thermal Power Corporation has launched an inquiry into what caused the disaster.