New Delhi: Investigations into a boiler blast that killed 29 and left scores injured on Wednesday at state-run NTPC's power plant in Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh have revealed that engineers were aware of a problem in the boiler unit commissioned just months ago and were working to fix it. In a statement, NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation) officials have said that "extremely high pressure" because of ash within the boiler furnace caused it to leak, producing a disaster.
"There was no explosion in the boiler, it happened outside the boiler. We were aware of an ongoing problem and that's why the generation capacity of the plant was reduced on that day," admitted RS Rathee, the regional executive director of NTPC on Thursday evening.
Questions have been raised about whether, having been aware of a problem, NTPC should have shut down the unit to prevent the deadly explosion.
Mr Rathee clarified: "We only shut down a plant or a unit when we feel we cannot repair it during ongoing operations. We have a central control room in Delhi and we were sending out all parameters there too.
Around 100 workers suffered burns and 20 of them are said to be in a very critical condition following the blast, which was followed by a thick cloud and steam. Some survivors have spoken of a rattling in the unit, and then a blast, causing intense heat "that could melt human flesh".
The 1,550-megawatt plant, with six power generating units, supplies power to six states. It is being investigated whether safety measures were in place and whether alarm systems were working, to give enough time for workers to be evacuated.
The National Human Rights Commission has called for an inquiry into whether negligence caused the explosion; it has asked the Yogi Adityanath government to give a detailed report within six weeks.