Nine killed in Srisailam powerhouse unit fire
8 others manage to escape through underground tunnel
Nine people, including five engineers, were killed in a fire in one of the units of the State-run hydel station of the Srisailam project on the Telangana side of the interState border across the Krishna. All nine bodies have been recovered.
The fire broke out from a panel board in the 150 MW unit around 10.30 p.m. on Thursday and gradually engulfed the entire area. The 17 engineers and technical staff on duty made frantic efforts till midnight to control the fire. Eight of them, who were in the upper floors, managed to escape through an underground tunnel linked to the power station.
The remaining nine were stuck deep inside the power house on the left canal of the project, which serves Telangana. The right canal meets the irrigation requirements of Andhra Pradesh.
Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao expressed shock and ordered an inquiry by the Crime Investigation Department of police. Its head, Govind Singh, has been appointed as the investigating officer.
Thick smoke, which caused zero visibility, obstructed fire-fighting for several hours, said Energy Minister G. Jagdish Reddy.
The Power Minister said Fire Department personnel, wearing masks, managed to gain entry into the shallow unit after three failed attempts. They were joined by rescue teams from the National Disaster Response Force and Singareni Collieries, which reached the site around 1 p.m. on Friday. Power generation was shut down after the accident.
Those who died included deputy engineer Bathini Srinivas Goud and assistant engineers Venkat Rao, Mohan Kumar, Uzma Fatima and Sundar Naik, plant attendant Rambabu and junior plant attendant Kiran Kumar. All of them were employed by the State generation corporation. Two technicians of Amara Raja Batteries who were servicing the batteries in the panels — Vinesh Kumar and Mahesh Kumar — also died.
The power station is towards Domalapenta village of Amrabad mandal in Nagarkurnool district. The plant is located 1.2 km below the surface and surrounded by a terrain on one side. It overlooked the river and faced the dam on the other side. An underground tunnel is the sole entry to the station.
Generation at the power house commenced a month ago when Srisailam, which is on the upper reaches of Nagarjunasagar on the Krishna river started flooding. The Power Minister was camping at Nagarjunasagar for a overnight stay to open the crest gates of the project next morning in view of heavy inflows caused by rains. He rushed to the site with Telangana State Power Generation Corporation Limited (TSGENCO) chairman and managing director D. Prabhakar Rao.