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Accident at Russian hydroelectric plant kills 10

Nataliya Vasilyeva
AP Writer

Moscow — An accident during repair work at Russia’s largest hydroelectric plant on Monday killed at least 10 workers, while as many as 65 others were missing after an engine room was suddenly flooded, officials said.

The cause of the accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya plant in southern Siberia was unclear. Federal investigators said a transformer exploded during repair work, destroying walls and the ceiling in an engine room where turbines are located and causing the room to flood.

The plant’s owner said the flooding occurred because of a pressure surge in water pipes.

Ten workers were confirmed dead and 14 injured. Rescue workers were searching the engine room for 50 to 65 people still missing, said Roman Dotsov, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry in Siberia.

Some of the dead had drowned and others were crushed by debris, he said. The survivors were hospitalized with a range of injuries, including concussions and exposure.

The accident closed the power station, which supplies several major aluminum plants. The government said electricity supplies from other power plants were being re-routed to help cover the shortfall, but outages were reported throughout the region.

The plant’s dam, a towering structure that stretches more than half a mile across the Yenisei River, was not damaged and towns downstream were in no danger, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

The accident produced an oil spill, however, and the slick was floating downriver. The slick had grown to cover as much as 10 square miles, the Natural Resources Ministry said.

Two of the plant’s 10 turbines were destroyed and a third was seriously damaged, said Vasily Zubakin, acting chief executive of the plant’s owner, RusHydro. He said the company was assessing the state of the remaining seven.

Shoigu said the repairs would be difficult. “We’re probably talking about years rather than months to restore three of the 10 turbines,” he said on state-run television.

Rusal, the world’s largest aluminum producer, was operating as usual, with its smelters being powered from other plants, company spokeswoman Yelena Shuliveistrova said.

The company was in talks with the government about reducing output to free up energy supplies needed elsewhere in the region, according to a statement attributed to Rusal.

Half of the residential buildings in Abakan, the capital of the Khakassia region where the plant is located, were left without power. Residents were stocking up on basic supplies and gasoline, Mayor Nikolai Bulakin said on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Abakan, home to 160,000 people, is about 110 miles north of the plant.

It was not immediately clear how many people were potentially affected by the accident.

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