Meghalaya’s prominent social activist Agnes Kharshiing said illegal coal mining Meghalaya responsible for the tragedy at NEEPCO’s 276 MW hydro-electric project at Umrangso in Assam’s Dima Hasao district.
Four technicians were washed away as a pipeline to the project burst on Monday and they remained traceless more than 21 hours after the incident.
The incident took place on Monday morning at 6:30.
The rescuers failed to recover the four persons trapped inside a powerhouse till the filing of this report.
Reacting to the incident, Kharshiing on her Twitter handle on Tuesday said: “Tragedy in Kopli Dam, due to rampant coal (mining) in Meghalaya and Assam and 4 missing till this moment. If authorities don’t act then lock them up as lives were not protected.”
Umrangso is located in the border with Meghalaya where illegal coal mining activities have allegedly been going on.
In the first week of November in 2018, Kharshiing, a prominent anti-corruption and RTI activist, who has been fighting against illegal coal mining in Meghalaya’s Jaintia Hills, was attacked in East Jantia hills in Meghalaya by coal mafias.
Anges received severe injuries and was admitted to the North East Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS).
“The pipeline that supplies water to the turbine of the power station got burst today morning. The heavy force of the water flooded the entire area including the power house, triggering the crisis” Hemanta Deka, NEEPCO executive director (Operations and Management) told Northeast Now after the incident.
The Kopili hydro power project, which was commissioned in 1976, currently generates 275 MW of power.
Sources said the water supply tunnel carries water about 14000 litres of water per second and water fountain rose up to hundreds feet high after the burst.
The spillover water also flooded some parts of the Umrangshoo town in Dima Hasao.
Media reports quoted Rondeep Changkakoti, the head of the human resource department at Kopili Hydro Electric Project as saying: “Four persons, including three employees of NEEPCO and one employee of a contractor who is involved in maintenance, were present at the powerhouse when it got flooded. They are yet to be accounted for.”
Relief and rescue personnel reportedly said access to the incident site at the project is blocked due to flooding and the continuous release of water from the punctured pipeline.