Plant explosion toll rises

2009-08-19 19:26

Moscow - Rescue workers found a body in the destroyed engine room of Russia's largest hydroelectric plant on Wednesday, raising the accident's death toll to 14, officials said.

More than 60 other workers are missing and feared dead at the massive Sayano-Shushenskaya power station in southern Siberia after an explosion blew out walls and caused the turbine room to flood on Monday.

Three of the plant's 10 turbines were destroyed and three were damaged, the plant's owner said. The giant power station has been idle since.

Divers continued to scour the near-freezing waters that flooded the plant for the missing workers but officials say there is little chance of finding anyone alive.

Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko described the accident as "the biggest and most mysterious in global hydroenergy" and said Wednesday it would cost about $1.2bn to rebuild the power plant's engine room.

The cause of the accident was still unclear. Officials and the plant's owner have cited a faulty turbine and a rise of pressure in the pipes as possible causes.

The accident caused power shortages in several towns and major factories, but by Wednesday the energy ministry said the power supply in Siberia was stable and "uninterrupted." Energy supplies from other power plants were being rerouted to cover the shortfall.

The Sayano-Shushenskaya plant, located north of the Mongolian border, provides 10% of Siberia's energy needs, according to Russian media.

The accident also produced an oil slick that by Wednesday stretched over 100km down the Yenisei River. Crews have been working for two days to stop it but the slick is still not contained.