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23 Aug, 2009 05:26

Dam blast: six still missing, no survivors expected

Sixty-nine people are dead and 6 still missing as rescue efforts at the hydro-power plant in Russia’s Republic of Khakassia continues. Emergency workers expect to finish draining water from the generator hall on Sunday.

On August 17 a huge explosion occurred at the country’s largest hydro plant.

Running away from disaster

A massive surge of water flooded the engine room at the Sayano-Shyshennskaya facility. Without accurate information in the early hours following the incident panic began to spread amid the worry the dam itself might be ridged.

“I was woken by my wife, who told me that the hydro power station collapsed and that a big wave was heading for us – and that in 30 minutes it will wash everything away,” said Sergey Peregerya, local resident.

“In the streets people were panicking, taking their family and children to the highlands.”

Who is to blame?

As the dust settled, officials assured public of the dam’s stability and powers redirected from surrounding facilities to make up for the loss. But with most of Khakassia and five major industrial plants in the region relying on Sayano-Shushenskaya for power, local energy prices jumped to nearly five times to normal rate.

Initial reports suggest the accident may have been the result of either a transformer explosion or a faulty turbine in the engine room.

But RusHydro, the company responsible for the plant, denied the equipment was faulty saying it was a hydro blast that shut the plant down.

But no matter the cause it was quickly becoming clear the magnitude of the disaster.

Deadly waters

With many people still missing, the death toll continues to rise through the week prompting families to hold funerals for their loved ones.

RusHydro agreed to pay the families of the victims one million rubles which was later supplemented by the federal budget bringing the total to two million per family, equal to 62 thousand US dollars.

“Children who are left without parents will receive financial support until they come of age,” said Evgeny Druzyaka, RusHydro spokesman.

“The company will help them into higher education. Those who suffered will get rehabilitation treatment ot the company's expense”.

Searching for the cause

After touring the facility with Emergency Minister Sergey Shoigy, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin created a special commission to investigate what happened.

He gave RusHydro six weeks to develop a plan too provide energy to Khakassia and to rebuild the facility. A process, the company says, that will take quite some time.

“This emergency is very serious,” said Valentin Stasievsky from the construction department.

“There is nothing more serious that could ever happen to the equipment and the structure of the power station. It is only possible to launch one machine in three or four months. The rest will take years to repair.”

And in a week of such a large scale accident the prime minister called on a national review of emergency services and infrastructure to prevent similar events occurring n the future.