Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 11:47 UK

Many feared dead in Russia blast


Amateur footage of the explosion at Sayano-Shushenskaya power station

Russian officials have warned it is unlikely any of the 64 workers trapped within Russia's largest hydro-electric power plant after a blast will survive.

Twelve people are already confirmed dead after the explosion at the Sayano-Shushenskaya power plant in Siberia.

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said groups of divers were searching for survivors in the flooded turbine hall.

The blast's cause is unknown but reports said investigators believed a transformer exploded during repairs.

Unfortunately we have no comforting news
Sergei Shoigu
Ministry of Emergency Situations

The plant's owner said the flooding had occurred due to a pressure surge in water pipes.

"Unfortunately we have no comforting news. We still do not know the fate of over 60 people," Mr Shoigu told Russian state TV.

"The territory above water and under the water is being searched. We are awaiting a robot, which is able to work underwater," he said.

The plant's owners, RusHydro, said a detailed 3-D map of where its employees were at the time was being used during rescue efforts.

Oil slick

On Monday, two workers were rescued by divers from an area beneath the turbine hall.

But RusHydro's acting chairman said he did not hold out much hope of finding other workers alive.

"It is unlikely that survivors will be found where the flooding happened," Vasily Zubakin told Russian news agencies.

Wednesday has been designated as an official day of mourning in the remote mountain region of Khakassia where the plant - one of the country's largest - is located.

The accident has created a large oil slick that is now floating down the Yenisei river, which flows north through Siberia to the Arctic.

Cross-section of typical hydro-electric power plant

Officials said towns downstream of the plant were not thought to be at risk.

RusHydro said the damage would run into "billions of roubles" and would take several months to repair.

The power station is located in the Siberian region of Khakassia, some 3,000 km (1,875 miles) east of Moscow.

The dam above it is 245m (800ft) high and stretches 1km (0.6 miles) across the Yenisei river.

Opened in 1978, the station provides a quarter of RusHydro output and is a major supplier of power to at least two smelters owned by United Company RUSAL, the world's largest aluminium producer.

Graphic of disaster scene

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