Balco chimney toll rises to 45, Chinese employees flee

Raipur, Sep 26 (IANS) Dozens of Chinese nationals, mostly engineers, working at Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd (Balco) in Chhattisgarh’s Korba town are reported to have fled fearing attacks by locals after a 100-metre under-construction chimney at the plant collapsed Wednesday, trapping many workers. So far, 45 bodies have been recovered.

The Chinese were employed in Korba by Shandong Electric Power Construction Corporation (SEPCO), that had bagged the contract by aluminium major Balco to construct two power plants of 600 MW each.

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Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd, part of the mining group Vedanta Resources Plc, holds 51 percent stake in Balco and the remaining 49 percent is owned by the Indian government.

Later, SEPCO assigned to Gannon Dunkerley and Company Ltd (GDCL) the task of constructing a 275-metre-high chimney for the power plant.

“Chinese nationals numbering around 70-80 have left Korba town amid the rising death toll. The SEPCO office is found locked,” sources in the Korba district administration told IANS.

The under-construction chimney crashed amid heavy rain and lightning Wednesday, trapping over 50 workers in the debris. Police say the toll could rise as more people are feared trapped.

The district administration source told IANS that police have alerted Mana airport authorities in Raipur not to allow any employees of SEPCO to leave Chhattisgarh as their help would be needed in a judicial probe into the crash instituted by the state government.

Sources at police headquarters here said that several Chinese who fled Korba have been kept at Bilaspur town, some 125 km from Korba.

Meanwhile, six teams of rescuers are still working at the collapsed chimney site to pull out survivors, if any, from the rubble.