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September 25, 2009

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Chimney collapse kills 26 in India

HUNDREDS of rescuers searched yesterday for at least 20 people still trapped under the rubble of a large chimney that collapsed on workers at a power plant in central India, killing at least 26.

It was unclear if any of those missing were still alive after the accident on Wednesday in which the 250-meter-tall chimney came crashing down on the plant's cafeteria as the workers had tea. The plant is under construction.

"There may be some lucky ones," said R.K. Vij, inspector-general of police. It was uncertain how many were in the cafeteria at the time of the accident, he said, though about 100 people were at the work site.

The power plant, owned by Bharat Aluminum Co, or BALCO, was being built by a Chinese company with the help of local contractors in Korba, about 960 kilometers southeast of New Delhi.

"Continuous heavy rains and lightning at Korba in the past few days is understood to be a probable reason for this incidence," Gunjan Gupta, the chief executive officer of BALCO, said in a statement. "However, the exact reasons for this incidence would be known only after the inquiry."

Twelve bodies were recovered yesterday, after 14 were found on Wednesday, said Vivek Sharma, a police officer. Seven people were hospitalized, he said.


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