Putin visits plant accident site

2009-08-21 20:43

Moscow - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited the site of the Siberia power plant accident on Friday, as the confirmed death toll rose to 26, and 49 people remained missing and feared dead.

Several bodies were discovered overnight in the destroyed turbine room of the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric power station in southern Siberia, Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry said.

More than 1 000 rescue workers were searching the huge plant for the missing, although there is little hope anyone could still be alive after four days in near-freezing waters.

A powerful explosion on Monday blew out walls and caused the turbine room to flood. The cause of the accident is unclear but officials cited a faulty turbine and a rise of pressure in the pipes as possible triggers.

The Sayano-Shushenskaya is Russia's largest power plant and supplies about 10% of Siberia's energy needs.

The plant has been shut down since the accident and could be out of service for a significant time. Repairs are estimated to take from two to four years.

Putin said on Thursday that the accident highlighted the need for upgrading critical parts of Russia's aging infrastructure.

He also emphasised the necessity of observing industrial safety standards. "In our country ... discipline in dealing with technology is very low," he said.

Damage seen at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant in Siberia. (Rossiiskaya Gazeta Newspaper, AP)

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