Catastrophe at Russian Hydroelctric Plant Kills Dozens, Releases Huge Oil Slick


Photo via the NY Times

An explosion at Russia's largest power generator—the Sayano-Shushenkaya hydroelectric plant in Siberia—has killed at least 12 people, and another 64 are thought to be lost in the wreckage. It's an environmental disaster of monumental proportions: in addition to the tragic deaths, the damaged plant has released an oil slick over 10 miles of the surface of nearby Yenisei River. Details are still emerging as to the cause of this great tragedy, but some ideas are surfacing.According to the New York Times:

At least 12 people died in the explosion at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant . . . in the Khakassia region of Siberia, according to the Emergency Situations Ministry. As many as 64 people were still missing as of Tuesday morning, the ministry said.
Hopes are dim for finding survivors, as most are thought to have drowned after being trapped in the wreckage. It's thought that it will take 8 days to fully drain the flooded areas. Power was also cut to five nearby factories and residents, according to the report. Officials are scrambling to restore electricity with coal-fired power. RussHydro, the company that owns the plant, expects to lose $47 million a month due to the disaster.

As for the cause of the accident, a few different speculative accounts have cropped up. From the Times:

ladimir Markin, a spokesman for Russia’s general prosecutor’s office, told the Itar-Tass news service that the accident occurred when a transformer exploded during repairs, cracking the walls and ceiling and causing water to fill an engine room. But RusHydro officials said the flooding was caused by a surge in hydraulic pressure, which they believed was caused by human error.
This is a terrible, unfortunate event with devastating consequences--at least hopefully an investigation will yield information that can prevent future disasters from occurring.

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