No trace of four missing staff after 48 hrs

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NEEPCO authorities blamed for Kopili project tragedy

HT Bureau

HAFLONG/GUWAHATI/DIPHU, Oct 9: Four persons, who are feared trapped inside a pump house after a pipeline carrying water to a hydro-power plant burst in Kopili Hydro Electric Power Project at Umrongso in Dima Hasao district, remained untraced on Wednesday, more than 48 hours after the accident on Monday.

At least three employees of the state-run North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) and another worker have gone missing after a large portion of the Kopili Hydro Electric Plant, including the entire pump house area, was inundated due to rupture in the pipeline that carries 12,000 litres of water per second.

The missing persons have been identified as Robert Baite, Prempal Balmiki, Joy Sing Tissue and Raju Reddy, official sources said.

NEEPCO sources said that the four persons, including three staffers were working at the power house when the inundation took place.

“The rescue teams stationed in the area and are trying it’s best to rescue the missing or trapped person in the hydro project,” said a senior NEEPCO official, present on the spot.

“Our priority is to rescue the missing persons and to restore the system as soon as possible,” the official said.

With more than 48 hours already over, the hope of the four missing officials remaining alive have seemingly dimmed, sources opined.

A rupture in the water supply pipeline had led to severe flooding of the hydropower plant on Monday. The spillover water had also flooded some parts of Umrangso town on Monday.

A team of National Disaster Rescue Force (NDRF), which arrived here Tuesday, failed to carry out search and rescue operations as the water level in the project site is very high. “They are trying to reduce the water level,” Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA)’s district project officer Riki Phukan said.

“Due to the pressure of water in the area, the quest for the trapped persons has become difficult. A thorough search will be possible only after the water pressure comes down following its release from the reservoir,” he said.

After the accident, NEEPCO opened all the gates of the reservoir to release excess water and reduce the pressure.

Meanwhile, the locals have blamed the NEEPCO authorities for the tragedy and said that it took place as the maintenance of the power plant was overlooked by the concerned authority.

Meanwhile, a high level team of NEEPCO officials arrived here on Tuesday to examine the cause of the blast.

The NEEPCO has been supplying power to Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura apart from Assam from this power plant.

The burst in the water tunnel that carries water at 12000 litres/sec from the NEEPCO reservoir to the Kopili Hydro Power Project site led to massive flooding and a water fountain that rose up to several hundred feet into the sky.

Around 800 metres of the incident area were affected by the burst. 90% machineries of the project were damage due to water logging, the situation deteriorate as there were reports of landslide in the affected area.

The inter-pipeline and the valve that burst used to supply water to the pump house of the project from its reservoir at Umrangso area in the district.

Located on the Kopili river, the Kopili Hydro Electric Project was the maiden venture of NEEPCO when it came into existence in 1976.

The total installed capacity of the project is 275 MW. The Opposition Congress has alleged that the water pipeline needed a repairing in 2014, which has been neglected by the authorities.

On the other hand, APCC spokesperson Dr. Mongve Rongpi questioned why the state government is still maintaining silence on the incident.

“Kopili Hydro Electric Power Project of state-run NEEPCO was constructed during the Congress regime and inaugurated by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on April 2, 1976. In course of time the channel might have lost its durability. But the government never looks into it, for which such tragic incident had taken place,” Dr. Rongpi said addressing press conference here on Wednesday.

“I want to ask the CEM of North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council, Debolal Garlosa as to why he is still silent and not giving statement. It is unfortunate the BJP is government at Centre, state and in Dima Hasao still have not responded. When there is a natural catastrophe in other places the government is very quick to response,” he said.

He also demanded compensation to the next of kin of the deceased besides an independent inquiry.

Karbi Students Association (KSA) Bijoy Bey faction also demanded that compensation should be granted to the next of kin of the deceased family members of the four persons missing in the pipeline burst incident at Kopili dam at Umrangso.

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