Thu, Aug 20, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Sixty still missing in Russian dam tragedy

DAY AND NIGHT Teams of divers and robots were combing the freezing waters of the flooded Sayano-Shushenskaya plant in southern Siberia in efforts to find survivors

AFP , CHERYOMUSHKY, RUSSIA

Rescuers said yesterday they had not given up hope for 62 workers still missing two days after a flood engulfed a Siberian hydroelectric power station in the latest calamity to hit the Russian energy industry.

Teams of divers and even robots were plunging into the near freezing waters of the flooded Sayano-Shushenskaya plant in the southern Siberian region of Khakassia in a last-ditch bid to find workers who may be trapped but alive.

Questions were mounting, however, over why it was taking so long for the authorities to give news on the fate of the missing over 48 hours after the disaster struck in the power station’s turbine hall.

“We are searching for the living. That’s our profession. We are listening for sounds,” said Alexander Kresan, head of the ministry of emergency situations search teams for Siberia.

“We are not resting one minute. I have 16 divers working day and night shifts,” he said.

yesterday was an official day of mourning in the local region of Khakassia, a remote area in the mountains of southern Siberia, where the massive dam spanning the Yenisei River is a major source of both pride and energy supplies.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed that 12 people were killed in the accident, 15 injured and 62 missing. The figure of 62 was almost unchanged from the number the authorities had given on Tuesday.

A meeting between local officials and relatives of the missing at a cultural center in the town of Cheryomushky 2km from the plant turned stormy as loved ones demanded to know what was happening.

“We don’t want secrets! If my son is dead then fine, tell me. I went to the morgue last night and they wouldn’t tell me anything,” said a man who gave his name as Viktor.

“I know my husband is still alive. There is a cushion of air there where he could be. Why haven’t you drained the water there?” asked Lena Petrovna, the wife of one of the missing at the plant.

The accident early on Monday at Russia’s biggest hydroelectric plant came when a massive wave of water flooded into the main turbine room which at the time was occupied by 100 workers.

The authorities have yet to give a clear indication over how this came about, with explanations ranging from a sudden pressure surge to a fault with one of the turbines.

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