Death toll in Russian disaster rises to 71

Last week’s accident at Russia’s largest hydropower plant killed 71 people and destroyed three of the power station’s 10 turbine generators, according to RusHydro, the plant’s owner and operator.

Company officials say an explosion in the turbine room of the Sayano-Shushenskaya plant in Siberia was followed by a sudden surge of water, flooding the large hall that housed the turbines. The accident occurred the morning of Aug. 17, 2009. (HydroWorld 8/17/09) Russian authorities say the cause of the accident is still unclear.

The plant, which accounts for a quarter of RusHydro’s output, will be closed for several months for repairs. Losses could exceed 16.5 billion roubles (US$522 million) by 2013, company officials said during a conference call.

It will cost the company about $40 billion roubles (US$1.26 billion) to repair the plant, analysts have estimated. Russia’s largest lender, Sberbank, said it would lend the company 20 billion roubles (US$633 million) to help repair the facility, located north of the Mongolian border in southern Siberia.

Last week, more than 1,000 people gathered around the open coffins of dead workers at a memorial service in the nearby town of Cheryomushki. Relatives embraced in front of wooden crosses with the names of the dead.

“This terrible tragedy was devastating for the inhabitants of the village of Cheryomushki, where every home is now full of pain and tears for lost relatives, friends and colleagues,” RusHydro said in a statement.

The accident also dumped 45 tons of fuel oil into the Yenisei River, according to Russia’s Natural Resources Ministry. Rubber booms were placed in the river to catch the spilled oil. The World Wildlife Fund said local reports indicated that up to 400 tons of fish had been killed by the oil slick.

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