Rae Bareli

The death toll from an explosion at the National Thermal Power Corporation coal-fired power plant Nov. 1 has risen to 30. The plant has been shut down and a full investigation has been promised. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

RAE BARELI — The death toll in the National Thermal Power Corporation boiler blast here in Uttar Pradesh rose to 30 Nov. 2, with more injured workers succumbing to their burn injuries. Power producer NTPC shut down the 500 MW unit following the accident.

The National Human Rights Commission has issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government over the deaths.

Nine of the injured in the boiler blast are to be shifted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, an official said Nov. 2.

Three senior officials of the NTPC who suffered critical injuries are being flown in an air ambulance to Medanta Hospital in Gurugram.

Doctors warned the toll was likely to rise as more than a dozen contractual laborers were battling for their lives with more than 90 percent of their bodies covered with burn wounds.

On Nov. 2, contractual laborers at the Feroze Gandhi Unchahar Thermal Power Station here raised slogans against the NTPC management. They claimed they had warned about an impending disaster at unit six as the temperature near the furnace had been steadily rising.

The NTPC has launched a probe into the incident, which it said took place due to "excess ash deposition" in the furnace. The state government has ordered a magisterial probe.

District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar Khatri told IANS that the number of injured in the Nov. 1 tragedy at the state-run NTPC plant stood at 64. 

The massive explosion took place in a 500 MW unit in Unchahar town on the Lucknow-Allahabad highway. Many were trapped when a fire erupted in the boiler. A huge ball of dust rose after the blast, making the rescue operations difficult. 

The Uttar Pradesh government has announced Rs. 2 lakh each to the families of the dead, Rs. 50,000 each to the critically injured and Rs. 25,000 to those who suffered minor injuries. They will all get free treatment at government hospitals.

Angry locals and family members of the injured alleged that there was a complete lack of medical facilities on the NTPC campus, which increased the number of casualties. 

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi Nov. 2 visited Rae Bareli after cutting short his Gujarat tour and met family members of the victims. 

Rae Bareli is the Lok Sabha constituency of his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. She may not visit the constituency as she is reportedly unwell.

Sonia Gandhi's daughter Priyanka Vadra is also scheduled to visit Rae Bareli.

Rahul Gandhi demanded a "fair probe" into the boiler explosion and sought government jobs for the kin of the dead. 

Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma also visit the injured at the district hospital. 

Meanwhile, Union Power Minister R.K. Singh visited the site and denied claims by some political leaders and families of the dead that human negligence was to blame for the boiler blast.

"I have seen everything during my physical inspection of the accident scene and I can say that there is no human negligence in the unfortunate incident," Singh told reporters, after visiting the accident site along with state Power Minister Shrikant Sharma. 

He also announced that the Central government has decided to give financial assistance of Rs. 20 lakh to the families of the deceased and Rs. 10 lakh each to the critically injured, while those who sustained minor injuries will get Rs. 2 lakh each, the union minister announced.

This compensation is in addition to the ex-gratia and financial assistance announced by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

The state-run NTPC has also announced financial assistance of Rs. 5 lakh each to the families of the dead. The Prime Minister's Relief Fund will also give Rs. 2 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased.

Minister R.K. Singh said the priority of the government, both at the Center and the state, was to save as many lives as possible and provide them the best possible treatment as quickly as possible.

Singh also said that NTPC's Unchahar unit was among the best in the country and that rumors that there was an extra load on it or that it was under pressure due to an increase in production were unfounded and baseless.

How and why the accident happened would be conclusively determined and detailed in the probe ordered by the ministry, which will be completed in 30 days, he added.

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