Water surge claims lives at Siberian dam

By Steve Skinner18 August 2009

At least 10 workers were killed and 72 are still missing after the machine room of the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant in Siberia, Russia was flooded.

"The ongoing search for missing workers has been difficult because the machine hall has many rooms, the doors of which are blocked," said Roman Domstev, a spokesman of the Emergency Situations Ministry in Siberia. "Divers are working to open the doors and find the missing workers," he confirmed.

Despite local reports of a transformer explosion leading to the flood, the operators of the dam, RusHydro, said a water surge caused a jump in pressure that led to the catastrophic failure of a pipe.

Investigations have already been launched into the cause of the failure, which has caused extensive damage. "The facility was shut down after suffering billions of Rubles of damage," said Vasily Zubakin, chief executive of RusHydro.

Of the ten power units in the dam, two were destroyed and two more were damaged according to a statement from RusHydro.

The Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant produces power for two of Russia's largest metals producers including Evraz Group and Oleg Deripaska's RusAl.

To compensate for the power deficit created by the disaster, hydropower plants in Krasnoyarsk and Bratsk will operate at maximum capacity, while heat plants in ten Siberian regions will switch to reserve capacities according to an Energy Ministry spokesperson.

"Replacing damaged power units could take up to four years and cost billions of Rubles," said RusHydro's Mr Zubakin. "the units that are not damaged could restart operations within the next six weeks," he said.

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