Sunday, February 7, 2010

Two killed in Connecticut power plant explosion

large explosion at a Connecticut power station has killed at least two people and injured scores. But rescue workers warned of the possibility of many more deaths.

The police said they expected "mass casualties" and that an undetermined number of people were buried under the rubble of the plant in Middletown. The blast was so large that some people mistook it for an earthquake, and it was felt 30 miles away.

"There are bodies everywhere," one eyewitness told the Hartford Courant newspaper. Other witnesses described a "huge ball of fire" and told the paper the "main plant building seemed to have been substantially levelled". Homes near the plant were also damaged. A caravan of ambulances and more than 100 firefighters streamed to the scene. Helicopters lifted out some of the injured.

Middletown's deputy fire marshal, Al Santostefano, said there were "confirmed fatalities" but was unable to say how many. "It was a massive blast," he said.

Bernadette Nyland told a local television station, WTNH, that she was outside her house when she heard the blast. "They were doing the firing of the engines this morning and so something went wrong and it blew up and flames came shooting up almost as tall as that stack. Then the smoke came billowing. Blew out our windows. It was frightening, very frightening," she said.

The cause of the explosion at the Kleen Energy Systems plant was not immediately clear but reports said it had occurred on a natural gas pipeline when the power generating system was being tested. Part of the plant was under reconstruction. At least 100 workers were in the vicinity of the explosion.

The Hartford Courant said one witness who lived across a river from the plant thought someone had driven a vehicle into his house because the concussion from the explosion was so strong.

Other people told local television stations they thought a plane had crashed. "Everyone ran out of their houses. [There was a] huge boom followed by three or four seconds of the house shaking," wrote one on WTNH's website.

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