Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service
Hyderabad, August 21
In a tragic turn of events, all nine persons trapped in a tunnel in the Srisailam Dam since last night have died.
Nine people were trapped in a tunnel following a fire, possibly due to a short circuit. The announcement of the fatalities came on Friday afternoon. Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR) has ordered an inquiry into the incident.
For over 14 hours, a relentless effort was made to rescue those trapped at the Telangana State Generation Corporation (TS Genco) plant at Srisailam canal’s left bank in Nagarkurnool district.
The dead include assistant engineers and divisional engineers. The rescue teams led by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have pulled out the bodies that suggested death by suffocation.
Those who have been identified include Assistant Engineers Mohan Kumar, Uzma Fatima, and Sunder; Divisional Engineers Srinivas Goud and Mahesh; and an employee of a battery company.
From the 30 odd persons reported to be present at the spot, 15 escaped to safety through a tunnel and another six were rescued by the rescue personnel. Employees from the Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) pitched in the rescue operations after the local staff was unable to douse the fire caused by a short circuit in unit one of the underground powerhouse.
Telangana Energy Minister Jagadish Reddy said: “A series of explosions took place leading to chaos. But some alert workers managed to control the fire for some time while most others ran out for safety.” He reached the spot late at night and managed to get rescue teams to act swiftly, but unfortunately, nine trapped persons could not be saved.
Transco chairman and managing director Prabhakar Rao said the rescue personnel were unable to enter the tunnel due to thick smoke. “As soon as the fire started, they tried to trip the units but that couldn’t happen. So we isolated the 400 KV input and all units were tripped.”
Srisailam Dam is located across the Krishna River which serves as the border between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao ordered a probe by the CID into the fire that will be conducted by Govind Singh, Additional Director General of Police, CID.
A statement released on behalf of the Chief Minister said the state would bear the entire cost of the treatment.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the incident as “deeply unfortunate” and hoped that the injured recovered at the earliest.
The fire started around 10.30 pm while the rescue operations continued till late afternoon today.
In a video shot by some employees who had escaped, a series of explosions were heard and staff could be seen trying to douse the flames using fire extinguishers. Massive lighting equipment of about 5,000 watts and above has been brought in but the team is unable to see beyond a few feet due to the thick smoke.
Nagarkurnool district collector L Sharman said the rescue operations were hampered due to the dense smoke and the pumps that help in sucking smoke were not immediately operational due to power outage.
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