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    Death toll in Siberia hydropower plant accident rises to 12

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    The death toll in an accident at Russia's largest hydropower plant has risen to 12 people, with 64 still unaccounted for, the country's emergencies minister said on Tuesday.

    SAYANO-SHUSHENSKAYA PLANT, August 18 (RIA Novosti) - The death toll in an accident at Russia's largest hydropower plant has risen to 12 people, with 64 still unaccounted for, the country's emergencies minister said on Tuesday.

    "The fate of 64 people is still unknown," Sergei Shoigu told reporters at the south Siberian Sayano-Shushenskaya power station, where he is coordinating rescue and clean-up work. Some 1,200 rescuers are working at the scene.

    Emergencies officials said 15 people were also injured early on Monday when two water ducts collapsed at the plant, flooding a turbine hall.

    Earlier reports said the disaster could have been triggered by the explosion of an oil transformer while workers were carrying out repairs.

    Russian prosecutors said on Tuesday the accident was not a result of a terrorist act.

    "Experts have not found any traces of explosives at the scene," the Investigation Committee said in a statement.

    The flooding has now been stopped, Shoigu said.

    He said divers were searching for bodies, and robots and other equipment would be used to monitor the river surface and check the damaged facilities. Emergencies workers are also trying to deal with an oil slick that hit the Yenisei River after the accident.

    Psychologists and other medics are working with the victims' families, a local hospital official said.

    Four people earlier reported missing were found late on Monday. One was discovered in a state of shock in the station's underground facility, one was retrieved from the water, and two others were found at their homes.

    Shoigu urged local residents not to panic, saying the dam was unaffected and there was no threat of flooding. Commenting on reports that locals were buying up gasoline at filling stations on Monday, he pledged uninterrupted fuel and electricity supplies to the region.

    The accident cut power supplies to homes and companies, including metal giants Evraz Group and RusAl. Six factories in the nearby Altai region have reportedly shut down due to the electricity shortage.

    The energy ministry, however, said late on Monday that power supplies disrupted in five Siberian regions, including at aluminum plants, had been restored using supplies from thermal power stations in Siberia and the European part of Russia.

    RusHydro, the owner of the Sayano-Shushenskaya plant built in 1978, said on Tuesday it could restart one or two generating units before the end of this year.

    Experts warned on Monday that electricity prices could rise by 20%-30% for industries in the region following the disaster, which forced nearby thermal power stations to increase output to compensate for the Sayano-Shushenskaya station's closure.

    The energy ministry pledged measures to prevent unjustified price hikes.

    President Dmitry Medvedev expressed condolences to the victims' families on Monday, a day which also saw a suicide bomber attack a police station in south Russia's Ingushetia, killing at least 20.

     

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