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Page last updated at 14:46 GMT, Thursday, 20 August 2009 15:46 UK

Russia blast prompts major review

Aftermath of accident at Sayano-Shushenskaya power station (17 August 2009)
Mr Putin is to visit the plant to inspect the rescue effort on Friday

Russia has announced a review of the state of key installations in response to a deadly explosion at the country's largest hydro-electric power plant.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin compared the state of Russia's infrastructure today to that of a wartime frontline.

The number of confirmed dead from Monday's explosion at the Sayano-Shushenskaya plant stands at 17.

But it is feared the final death toll will rise as divers continue the search for 58 workers who are still missing.

Chemical pollution from the explosion - which flooded a turbine hall and destroyed three generating units - has killed fish and spread down a major Siberian river.

Thorough check

Situated some 3,000 km (1,875 miles) east of Moscow in the remote mountain region of Khakassia, the power plant remains closed and an investigation into the explosion continues.

Mr Putin said he would visit the area to inspect the rescue effort on Friday.

He said he would discuss with local officials how to get the plant working again, and what help could be made available to those caught up in the tragedy.

"The tragic events at the Sayano-Shushenskaya have clearly shown how much we need to do to ensure safety of hydropower facilities," said Mr Putin.

"We need to conduct a thorough check of all strategic and vital parts of infrastructure and work out a plan for their regular upgrade."

Cross-section of typical hydro-electric power plant

Absorbents have been thrown from helicopters and booms have been deployed on the Yenisei river to trap some 40 tonnes of transformer oil that leaked into the river following the explosion.

Wednesday was an official day of mourning in the region where the hydro power plant - one of the world's largest - is located.

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

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said it would take at least a week to assess damage in the hall that was flooded after the explosion.

Billions of roubles

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

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

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

Mr Shoigu said repairing the turbine hall alone could cost 40bn roubles ($1.3bn; £762m).

But he said it would still be worth doing the repairs, because the dam - undamaged by the blast - had accounted for 80% of the construction cost.

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

Graphic of disaster scene



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