RAEBARELI, UTTAR PRADESH: Twenty-two people have been killed and scores burnt in the boiler explosion that took place on Wednesday in a power generating unit commissioned just months ago at a state-run NTPC plant in Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh. Many of the injured have suffered serious burn injuries from the explosion, which let off thick smoke and steam. "There was a loud blast and everything went dark," said a survivor in hospital.
The plant in Unchahar is almost 30 years old but the boiler pipe burst took place in the 500 MW power generating unit that started operating in March.
Reports suggest that the some workers sensed pressure building up in the boiler but it is not clear whether there was enough time to evacuate people to safety before it exploded.
A fire broke out and a huge ball of dust rose after the explosion, making rescue difficult.
"We were 80-90 metres away. The boiler started shaking and then there was a blast...gas exploded. Many fell unconscious," said a survivor.
In a statement, the NTPC has said that there was a "sudden abnormal sound...and there was an opening...from which hot gases and steam escaped affecting the people working around the area."
Hours into the rescue effort, there were fears that some workers might be trapped inside the unit.
"Rescue operations are still on," said senior official Sanjay Kumar Khatri on Thursday. The plant was shut down last evening.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has interrupted his campaign tour of Gujarat for polls next month to visit the plant and the injured workers in Raebareli, which is his mother Sonia Gandhi's constituency.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted to say that officials are ensuring that normalcy is restored. "Deeply pained by the accident at the NTPC plant in Raebareli. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly. The situation is being closely monitored and officials are ensuring normalcy is restored," he tweeted.