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Hydropower plant drowns kids

Update: May, 27/2017 - 09:48
A hydropower plant in the central province of Phú Yên that opened its floodgates without warning caused the death of four students in the downstream area earlier this week, officials reported.— Photo vietnammoi.vn

PHÚ YÊN — A hydropower plant in the central province of Phú Yên that opened its floodgates without warning caused the death of four students in the downstream area earlier this week, officials reported.

The man-made flood in the current dry season was characterised as “unseen in 40 years” by Cao Minh Hoà, deputy secretary of Sơn Hoà District’s Party Committee.

The remark was made in a meeting with inspection group sent by the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) to hydropower plant Ba Hạ River, a member of the state-owned Việt Nam Electricity (EVN), following the May 24 incident.

As there was unexpected rain, plant operators decided to discharge its reservoir to generate electricity; however, it failed to notify people in the downstream areas, as is required when its floodgates are opened when there’s perceived threat of the spillway overflowing.

According to Tô Xuân Bảo, Deputy Director of MoIT’s Industry Safety Techniques and Environment Agency, the plant’s electricity generating activity was conducted “according to existing protocols,” except for the failure to send an advanced warning.

“Therefore, a forewarning system must be installed, to prevent similar unfortunate incidents from taking place,” Bảo said.

On May 24, at about 8am, a group of seven 6th-grade students from Củng Sơn Secondary School in Sơn Hoà District swam in the Thá waterfall downstream of the Ba River. The first four students to swim were swept away by the sudden rush of water, the remaining three called rescue forces to the scene.

According to the survivors, seeing the approaching waters, the four panicked and tried to make it to the riverbank but failed.

The hydropower plant was asked to immediately close its floodgates for rescue forces to salvage the bodies. By yesterday morning, all four bodies were found.

Ba Hạ River Hydropower Plant’s report said that at the time of the incident, the volume of discharged water from the plant reached up to 360 cubic metres a second.

The drowning was just the latest example of a series of incidents of hydropower plants releasing water in an irresponsible manner, causing devastation in downstream areas and raising public concerns on the safety of these plants. — VNS

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