16 electrocuted as transformer explodes on river bank in Himalayan state

Police inspector and three home guard personnel among those killed in Uttarakhand

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Wednesday 19 July 2023 12:45 BST
At least 15 electrocuted in India’s Uttarakhand state
At least 15 electrocuted in India’s Uttarakhand state (Screengrab/ Times of India)

At least 16 people were killed and six others sustained injuries after a transformer exploded on the banks of a river in India, electrifying a bridge.

A police inspector and three home guards (auxiliary to the police) were among the victims, who died inside a sewage treatment plant along the banks of the Alakananda river in the Chamoli district of India’s Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, officials said.

The electrified bridge near Pipalkoti village was a part of the plant under the federal government’s flagship Namami Gange project, which aims to conserve and revive the river Ganges.

The police visited the site to prepare a report on the electrocution of a person working on the spot when electricity circulation on a metal railing caused their deaths, Chamoli district disaster management officer NK Joshi said.

The injured were rushed to a local hospital while two of them were airlifted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Rishikesh.

Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami ordered a judicial probe into the incident and left for Chamoli from state capital Dehradun for an inspection of the site.

"This is a very unfortunate incident. Police, SDRF and rescue teams are present at the spot. Strict action will be taken against the guilty," the chief minister said.

The cause of the incident will become clear after a detailed inquiry but it seems, on the surface, to have happened due to electrocution, said Himanshu Khurana, the district magistrate of the area.

The incident took place at an "old 50KLD sewage treatment plant”, Times of India quoted a source as saying. The “labourers were conducting maintenance work to remove excessive sludge due to monsoon,” the source added.

The chief minister has asked officials to provide Rs500,000 (£4,714) to the families of the deceased and Rs100,000 (£942) to the injured people.

The incident occurred as water levels in most rivers in northern India have risen due to record monsoon rains and heavy rains have killed more than 100 people in north India in the past three weeks.

Between 2011 and 2020, at least 100,000 people lost their lives due to electrocution, according to the data from National Crime Records Bureau. On average, nearly 11,000 electrocutions took place every year, while the number rose to 12,492 in 2022.

Last month, a woman was electrocuted in capital Delhi after she touched an electric pole while trying to walk through a flooded road to board a train.

At least 11 people were electrocuted when their truck touched an overhead power cable during a Hindu festival procession in southern India in April.

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