Hyderabad: Nine people died and 15 others escaped with injuries in a major fire accident at Telangana State Power Generation Corporation Limited (TS Genco) hydel power plant located in Srisailam, Nagarkurnool district. The fire took place on Thursday night around 10:30 p.m.
So huge was the blaze that it took rescue teams more than 17 hours to recover the dead bodies from the underground tunnels even as flames were yet to be doused inside the turbines and transformers of the plant at the time of writing this report.
The reasons for the accident are yet to be ascertained. Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao ordered a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) probe into the accident.
There has been spurt in industrial accidents in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh after the lockdown, including the gas leak in LG Polymers that killed 15 people. A total of 29 people have died in four industrial accidents in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam city alone.
As per the probes into these accidents, management non-compliance with regard to mandatory safety measures has been a common feature.
In another accident, 20 workers, mostly women, were hospitalised due to ammonium gas leakage late on Thursday night in a dairy belonging to a private agro products firm in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district.
Industrial Accidents Post-Lockdown in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
TS-GENCO Hydel Plant Casualties
The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) teams recovered the dead bodies from the exit gates of the tunnels of the plant while National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) members, who initiated the rescue operations, had several failed attempts in entering the plant. Many members of the rescue team suffered suffocation as smoke had filled up in the tunnels, and had to be sent to Genco Hospital.
Among the dead are Deputy Engineer Srinivas Goud and Assistant Engineers Surendar Naik, Mohan Kumar Venkat Rao, Sushma and Fatima, plant attenders Ettem Rambabu and Kiran and two technicians of a private company, Amara Raja Batteries Limited -- Mahesh and Vinesh.
According to local media reports, the exhaust fans did not operate which intensified the fire and smoke inside the underground tunnels. Videos captured at the time of the accident show that staff initially tried to douse the fire with the help of portable extinguishers but in vain. The fire was followed by a series of explosions, it is reported.
“The project unit operates at multiple levels. Those in the control room managed to come out. Others at lower levels couldn't come out because of the smoke. The current being switched off also hampered rescue and escape efforts," an official was quoted as saying.
The Chief Engineer of the plant, Prabhakar Rao, suspected that the engineers died of asphyxiation.
Telangana energy minister, G Jagadishwar Reddy, who reached the plant within hours of the accident, monitored the rescue operations. Speaking to the media, Reddy said: “Four panels got damaged due to the fire accident. Smoke spread to the unit immediately. Though the staff switched off the power, they could not go ahead with the rescue operations due to the smoke. The injured were rushed to the hospital immediately.”
Julakanti Ranga Reddy, a CPI(M) leader, who visited the plant said a high-level expert committee must probe the accident and Rs 1 crore ex gratia must be given to the families of the deceased. Pointing a finger at outsourcing by government, he said: “Why are private companies being outsourced projects in a government entity like TS Genco”.