Nine people including seven employees of Telangana state power generation corporation (TSGenco) were killed and eight others injured– three of them seriously– in a major fire mishap at the Srisailam Left Bank Hydel Power Station (SLBHP) late on Thursday night, officials said.
The SLBHP is on the Telangana side of the Srisailam reservoir on Krishna river– a joint irrigation project between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The power house was constructed inside a two-km long tunnel under the Nallamala hill range adjacent to the reservoir.
Though the authorities initially said there were 30 employees inside the power plant when the accident occurred at 10.30 pm, an official statement from TSGenco said there were only 17 employees inside.
“Eight of them managed to come out of the station with injuries, nine others remained trapped inside as they were trying their best to put out the fire and save the power plant from being burnt completely,” the statement said.
The deceased employees of TSGenco were identified as deputy engineer Srinivas Goud, assistant engineers Venkat Rao, Mohan Kumar and Uzma Fathima, plant attendant Rambabu, junior attendant Kiran and Sundar Kumar. Two other employees of Amaron Batteries, Hyderabad – Vinesh Kumar and Mahesh Kumar– were also trapped inside the power plant and were among those found dead.
“All of them tried to come out of the escape tunnel, but they did not succeed due to the thick plumes of smoke that engulfed the entire tunnel,” the statement said.
Telangana power minister G Jagadeeshwar Reddy, agriculture minister S Niranjan Reddy, TSGenco chairman and managing director D Prabhakar Rao rushed to the spot along with other senior officials.
Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has ordered a comprehensive probe by the Crime Investigation Department (CID) into the fire accident at SLBP. He appointed CID additional director general Govind Singh as inquiry officer to probe into the cause of the accident and submit a report to the government.
The chief minister expressed deep shock over the loss of nine lives in the mishap and said despite best efforts, those trapped inside could not be rescued. Describing the accident as the most tragic, he conveyed his condolences to members of the bereaved families. He wished speedy recovery to those critically injured in the accident.
Jagadeeshwar Reddy, who supervised the rescue operations, said the fire possibly erupted due to a short circuit in one of the electric panels of the power house and it spread to other parts. “Thick smoke engulfed the tunnel, making it difficult for the rescue teams to reach the place,” the minister said.
Fire extinguishers could not control the fire and ambulances could not reach the area. Teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) were pressed into service. Rescue teams from Singareni Collieries also joined the rescue operations.
According to TSGenco authorities, the power plant is located inside the tunnel at about 1.2 km from the entrance and the only way to reach the plant was through the tunnel. “But because of flames and heavy smoke, it was not possible to enter the tunnel. The rescue teams could enter the power house only by Friday afternoon. But by that time, all the nine employees were unfortunately found dead,” the official statement said.
Out of the eight persons who managed to escape in the initial hours, three persons were seriously injured and they are being treated, the statement said.
The rescued employees include deputy executive engineer Pawan Kumar, plant junior assistant Ramakrishna, junior engineers Mathru, Krishna Reddy and Venkataiah and driver Palankaiah. They were shifted to TSGenco hospital at Eegala Penta closer to the powerhouse for treatment.