An explosion at a power plant yesterday killed at least 16 workers and seriously injured up to 100, police said.
The blast occurred at a coal-fired power plant in Rae Bareli district of Uttar Pradesh, run by the government-owned National Thermal Power Corporation.
Images showed thick grey plumes of smoke rising into the sky before ambulances rushed to the scene.
“Raebareli #NTPC death toll increases to 16,” the official Uttar Pradesh police Twitter account said late yesterday.
The state’s principal secretary, Arvind Kumar, said up to 100 were injured in the explosion.
Additional Director General of Police (ADG) said the death toll could climb as many of the injured were in critical condition.
More than 50 fire trucks were pressed into service to douse the blaze and 100 ambulances, private and government, helped ferry the injured to medical facilities.
Anand Kumar, a director-general of police in the state capital Lucknow, said preliminary findings suggested that ash had collected in the furnace below the boiler, causing the explosion.
“Ash had accumulated for some reason which should not have happened. And due to that, pressure built up inside and led to the blast,” he said in a video statement uploaded on YouTube.
There was a “sudden abnormal sound” at Unit 6 of the NTPC plant in the town of Unchahar and flue gases and steam escaped during the incident, NTPC said.
The 1,550 megawatt plant supplies electricity to nine states including Uttar Pradesh, according to the company’s website.
Three units with a combined capacity of 630 MW are continuing to generate electricity, while the 500 MW unit that was hit by the explosion has been shut down.
Other units are either under scheduled maintenance or are not operating currently due to lack of demand, NTPC said.
“An inquiry has been set up by NTPC management to investigate the reasons for the accident,” it said in a statement late yesterday.
“All possible measures are being taken to provide immediate relief to the families of affected people in close co-ordination with the district administration.”
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath offered his condolences to the families of the dead and offered each compensation of Rs200,000.
Rae Bareli is the parliamentary constituency of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
The Congress president expressed shock and horror at the tragedy and asked party workers to help in the relief operations.
Party vice president Rahul Gandhi also expressed sadness.
Workplace accidents are common in India, where poor safety standards and lax enforcement of regulations have led to horrific deaths.
India’s power distribution system is prone to accidents, mostly because of poor maintenance and underfunding in rural areas.
An electricity transformer exploded outside a wedding in Rajasthan on Tuesday evening, killing at least 13 people including a pregnant woman.
Dozens of guests had assembled for the ceremony in Jaipur when the transformer blew up, spewing hot oil and metal shards.
Nearly 10,000 people died of electrocution in India in 2015, according to the most recent data available from the national crimes records bureau.
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