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23 Aug, 2009 01:03

Rescuers expect no more survivors in dam accident

Recovery teams have found more bodies following Monday's explosion at Russia's biggest hydro-electric plant, raising the number of those confirmed dead to 69, according to the emergencies operations center.

The search continues for 6 other workers, but it's not thought any have survived.

President Medvedev has instructed Prime Minister Putin to make arrangements for paying compensation to the families of those killed in Monday’s explosion at Russia’s largest hydropower plant located in Siberia.

The Prime Minister pledged one million roubles from the federal budget to each of the families of those dead and still missing as a result of the accident.

Vladimir Putin has also ordered Russia’s Ministry of Energy and the operating company RusHydro to lay out the hydro-electric plant’s reconstruction plan within six weeks.

He also said local authorities must provide employees of the damaged plant with jobs for the whole period of repair work.

And while the search for the missing workers continues, the reconstruction project has already begun with heavy equipment being delivered to the plant.

Putin is also pushing for a fast and thorough investigation of the blast:

“We have several versions of what could have caused the tragedy. I insist that we need to know exactly what happened here so that we are able to avoid the same mistake in the future,” Putin said at a media conference on Friday.

Emergency crews have started to drain water from the generator hall where the accident took place. After working around the clock for five days, they hope to finish draining water from the turbine hall by Saturday afternoon. Currently 2,000 people are engaged in the rescue operation, and on Friday 500 more will join them.

As the search for those missing continues around the clock, local residents have brought the rescuers working on the site a truckload of food.

Among the products the locals gathered as a sign of gratitude is condensed milk, sweets, sour cream, butter and cheese. They also promised to bring fruits and vegetables.

The Emergencies Minister, Sergey Shoigu, has thanked them and said the rescuers will do everything possible to find those missing.

Fisheries and local ecology

The Emergencies Ministry is actively cleansing the waters of the Yenisey River polluted with oil following the accident.

The authorities say there’s no risk of oil getting into the region’s municipal water intakes.

Although Russia’s environmental watchdog has stated “there are no reasons to talk about the environmental disaster”, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said the oil spilled has killed several hundred tons of fish.

“We have learned from Khakassia sources that the accident killed about 400 tons of fish at downstream fish farms,” Interfax quoted the head of the WWF Russia program for oil and gas sector ecology, Aleksey Knizhnikov, as saying.

A source at the Yenisey territorial department of the Khakassia fishery agency confirmed to Interfax that 360-380 tons of trout died at two local fish farms. But these are only preliminary estimates, the agency’s source pointed out.

Safety of technical facilities under scrutiny

Investigation into the cause of the accident is underway.

At a cabinet meeting Prime Minister Putin has demanded a comprehensive review of Russia’s entire technical infrastructure, especially of hydro-electric facilities.

“The recent tragic events at the Shushenskaya hydroelectric power station demonstrate how much we still have to do to increase the reliability of the technical infrastructure in general and hydrotechnical in particular,” Putin told the ministers.

“We need to carry out serious scrutiny of all the strategic and vital objects of infrastructure and work out a plan of regular modernization and maintenance.”

Power supplies

The accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya plant has reduced electricity supplies in Siberia. President Medvedev ordered the government to take measures to resume power supply to the region as soon as possible.

The head of the Energy Ministry Sergey Shmatko said energy prices in Siberia will go up by 5 to 7 per cent because of the accident.

But according to the non-profit partnership Market Council, which regulates Russia’s wholesale energy distribution, the price of energy in Siberia is expected to go up but no more than 10 to 12 per cent. The rise is due to passing a bulk of energy production to thermal, mainly coal-fired power plants, where the generation of energy is more expensive than hydropower.

For its part, Russia’s largest energy-generating company, Rushydro, said it will not change energy tariffs planned for 2010. The increase will amount to 6 per cent as decided earlier in the year. However, the company intends to adjust energy generation volumes.

The government has said it will be watching the situation on the energy market closely and will intervene if necessary.