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NTPC boiler blast toll rises to 26; Rahul visits Rae Bareli, demands probe

The toll in the massive explosion in a boiler at the state-run power giant NTPC’s Unchahar plant rose to 26 with six more persons succumbing to injuries, a senior official said on Thursday.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Union minister of state for power R K Singh visited the accident site.

Taking a break from his Gujarat election tour, the Congress vice president visited the district hospital and NTPC premises and enquired about the incident from officers present.

He was accompanied by senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and Congress state president Raj Babbar.

“How many workers were working there?” he was heard asking officers at the Unchahar unit of NTPC.

“People are saying that it (the plant unit) was run early (before schedule). It should not have been run that way. We will demand a probe,” Rahul told reporters.

Azad demanded a high-level probe by an outside agency to bring out the fact.

Rahul also came face to face with Singh during his NTPC visit.

When asked about the incident, Singh said there could be two issues — design or maintenance. “We are looking into both the aspects,” he said.

On charges that the plant unit was commissioned ahead of time, he said it was not done in haste.

“The work was completed before March and after two-three months of trial, it was commissioned,” he said.

Singh also said the compensation by NTPC had been raised from Rs five lakh to Rs 20 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased.

Deputy CM Dinesh Sharma and UP power minister Srikant Sharma also visited Raebareli and met the injured.

Gandhi took a break from his ongoing ‘Navsarjan Yatra’ in poll-bound Gujarat and rushed to Rae Bareli, his mother Sonia Gandhi’s Lok Sabha constituency, to meet the families of victims of the explosion.

The Congress president has expressed shock at the “terrible tragedy”.

Azad said she has been discharged from hospital on Tuesday. Had she been well, she would have visited the families of the victims, he said.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who is abroad, had announced Rs 2 lakh compensation for the family of those killed and Rs 50,000 for the grievously injured, besides Rs 25,000 for other injured workers.

UP Principal Secretary (Home) Arvind Kumar told reporters in Lucknow that the toll in the NTPC boiler blast has risen to 26.

The NTPC has initiated a probe to ascertain the reasons behind the blast.

In a statement, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has said that at unit number six of its Unchahar plant, there was a sudden abnormal sound at 20-meter elevation around 3:30 on Wednesday afternoon.

There was an opening in corner number two from which gas and steam “escaped” affecting the people working around the area, the central public sector undertaking said.

It added that around 80 people were rushed to the NTPC Hospital, most of whom were discharged after first-aid.

The 1,550-MW plant supplies electricity to nine states, according to officials, and employs around 870 people.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that he was “deeply pained” by the accident at the power plant.

Modi approved ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh each for the families of those killed.

“Prime Minister @narendramodi has approved an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each for the next of kin of those who have lost their lives due to the accident at the NTPC plant in Raebareli, Uttar Pradesh. PM has approved Rs. 50,000 each for those injured due to the accident,” PMO India said on Twitter.

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