Death Toll at 29 After Explosion at India Thermal Plant

An explosion at a coal-fired power plant in India has killed as many as 29 people and injured more than 100, according to officials in Lucknow, India. The blast, which occurred November 1 at the Feroze Gandhi Unchahar Thermal Power Station, was apparently caused when a boiler pipe burst in a 500-MW generating unit that came online in March of this year and was being operated on a trial basis.

Police confirmed the total number of dead on November 2, and said the death toll could still rise. The plant employs 870 workers, and it was not known how many were in the plant at the time of the explosion. Officials on Thursday said the 500-MW unit was shut down, but three units generating a combined 630 MW of power remain in operation at the facility.

Officials said many of the injured had severe burns. The incident apparently occurred when a pipe carrying ash from the burning coal exploded late Wednesday in the boiler at the power plant in Unchahar in Uttar Pradesh state, although officials said they still have not definitively determined the cause.

NTPC, the plant’s operator and India’s largest power utility, said in a statement Wednesday: “There was sudden abnormal sound at 20 mt. elevation and there was an opening … from which hot flue gases and steam escaped affecting the people working around the area.” The NTPC statement also said “an unfortunate accident in the boiler of 500MW under trial unit of NTPC – Unchahar occurred this afternoon. Rescue operations are underway in close coordination with the district administration. Injured persons are being shifted to the nearby hospitals.” The company said senior executives were headed to the site to help coordinate rescue efforts.

NTPC said the 1,550-MW plant, which is named for Feroze Gandhi, husband of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, began commercial operation in 1988, with five units generating 210 MW each.

Authorities said several of the injured sustained severe burns. A large fire broke out after the explosion, hindering rescue efforts.

Local officials said a National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team was dispatched to the explosion site from Lucknow for relief and rescue operations.

Note: This story has updated the number of fatalities as of November 2. 

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine)