Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

RusHydro Says Finding Survivors Now Unlikely

ReutersThe damaged machine room of the Sayano-Shushenskaya plant Tuesday.
As rescuers searched for survivors of the dam disaster in southern Siberia for a second day Tuesday, hopes faded that any of the 64 missing workers would be found alive.

At least 11 people were killed and 14 were injured Monday when a powerful flood of water burst into the main machine room of the giant Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant, RusHydro, the plant’s operator, said in a statement.

The plant in the Khakassia republic, four time zones east of Moscow, is the country’s biggest, with a 245-meter-high concrete dam holding a water reservoir stretching over 621 square kilometers, according to RusHydro’s web site.

Alexander Toloshinov, a manager for RusHydro and a former director of the plant, said Tuesday that because of chilly water temperatures, survivors could only be expected if they were lucky enough to be in an “air bubble.”

“If a person is caught in such a bubble, there is a chance [of survival]. If people are in the water, which has a temperature of just 4 degrees Celsius, there is practically no chance,” Toloshinov said, Interfax reported.

He also suggested that a technical fault in a turbine was to blame for the disaster. “A turbine was destroyed, and indicators show that this was not caused by the water surge but by a broken turbine lid,” Toloshinov told a meeting with relatives of the missing workers in the village of Cheryomushki, where the plant is located.

However, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said the reason for the accident had yet to be established. “The basic reason was a water surge, and the reason for that is not clear yet,” he told reporters at the plant Tuesday.

Speaking at the same meeting, Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said a transformer explosion or repair works, two explanations circulating Monday, could be ruled out.

Shoigu also said there was no danger of a dam leak or break. “We can say for sure that there is no danger for the local population. There will be no flooding,” he said.

Kommersant reported Tuesday that engineers had warned in 1998 that the dam’s foundation was weak because of misconstruction and there was a real danger that the giant concrete construction might collapse.

Shoigu said the Emergency Situations Ministry was sending another 1,000 employees to reinforce a 100-member rescue crew at the plant.