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Daily Archives: August 18, 2009

Power plant accident: 68 missing, eight dead

A sudden flood at Russia's largest hydroelectric plant yesterday killed at least eight people and left scores missing after pipes ruptured in a water pressure surge, officials said.
The accident caused serious power disruption in Siberia, cutting off electricity to smelters of major Russian metals manufacturers UC Rusal and Evraz Group.
Officials said eight plant workers were killed and 14 injured when a sudden increase of water pressure in pipes feeding a power unit caused the rupture at the Sayano-Shushenskaya plant in the Khakassia region.
The components were undergoing repairs when the accident occurred, causing a large portion of the power unit to break off and puncture the ceiling and wall, allowing water to pour in and flood the chamber.
In a statement, the Kremlin said the accident was due to an unspecified "hydraulic impact" at the plant which forced the shutdown of all 10 of the station's power units.
President Dmitry Medvedev ordered Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu and Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko to fly to the scene and take personal control of the crisis, the Kremlin said.
The accident at the plant sparked panic among nearby residents who feared the massive dam at the facility might collapse, but Shoigu said there was no threat to people downstream.
"Towns and villages located downstream are not in danger," Shoigu told reporters in Moscow.
Andrei Klyuyev, an emergency situations ministry official at the site of the accident, 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) east of Moscow, said there were still dozens of people unaccounted for.
"The fate of 68 people is unknown," Klyuyev told the Echo of Moscow radio station.
Klyuyev said rescue divers had pulled out one person from a room underneath the plant's turbine hall where there was apparently a cave-in and flooding but said many more could still be trapped.
"At the moment we cannot determine whether these people were down there or managed to get out somewhere but we know that there were that many people on this shift," Klyuyev said.
The accident at the plant disrupted power supply to key smelters in the region including those of UC Rusal, Russia's largest aluminium producer, and other enterprises.
A Moscow-based spokeswoman for Rusal, which is controlled by billionaire businessman Oleg Deripaska, said however the operation of the smelters had not been seriously affected as power had been diverted from alternative sources.
Konstantin Reily, a utilities analyst at Finam, estimated that it might cost up to three billion dollars to replace the three damaged power units.
"This is an extraordinary event. This is the first accident of such a scale at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant," he added.
The mayor of the nearby town of Abakan, speaking to Echo of Moscow radio, said queues had begun forming outside bakeries and gas stations.
The natural resources ministry said it was concerned by the environmental impact of the accident, saying an oil slick of more than 25 kilometers (15 miles) had spread along the Yenisei River.
"According to preliminary data, transformer fluid has leaked from one of the hydroelectric station's damaged units," the ministry said in a statement.

Hurricane Bill gains punch as first of Atlantic

The first hurricane of the Atlantic storm season, Bill, strengthened yesterday as it churned toward the US mainland, while another sizeable storm, Claudette, lost punch at landfall, weather officials said.
"Bill could become a major hurricane by Wednesday," and was likely to grow in intensity as it moved northwest over the next one to two days, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.
Hurricane Bill was moving northwest at 22 miles (35 km) an hour, packing sustained winds of 75 miles (120 km) an hour, according to the NHC.
At 0900 GMT, Bill was churning in the middle of the Atlantic, 1,160 miles (1,870 kilometers) east of the Lesser Antilles.
Meanwhile Tropical Storm Claudette, which lashed tourist resorts with strong winds and heavy rain, weakened to a tropical depression as it moved across the southern United States.
Claudette appeared suddenly on Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico, while most Atlantic hurricanes usually begin far from the US coast.
Emergency response teams were activated in northern Florida as the region braced for possible flooding from Claudette. Emergency officials in the state said up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain were expected in some areas.
A third storm, Ana, which formed as a tropical storm early Saturday, weakened to a tropical depression and crept toward Hispaniola, prompting storm watches in the area.
And in the Pacific, Guillermo also weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm.
It crossed into the Central Pacific, with its center located more than 815 miles (1,300 kilometers) east of Hilo, Hawaii, moving northwest at about 15 mph (22 kmh), the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said.
The Atlantic hurricane season began on June 1 and continues through November 30.

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