Three killed and four missing after blast at power station in Italy

The underground explosion caused a fire and the collapse of part of the structure

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At least three people have been killed in an underground explosion at a hydroelectric plant in Italy.

Rescuers were searching for four people missing in a part of the plant where the water level was rising rapidly.

The blast occurred about 40 metres underground at Enel's Bergi power plant, at Lake Suviana, about 70km from Bologna, during maintenance to upgrade the station.

"The rescuers' hope is always to find people alive. The scenario we see does not make us believe much in these hypotheses, but I repeat that we are also accustomed to miracles," fire brigade spokesman Luca Cari said on Wednesday.

He said the situation was very difficult, due to the water rising quickly inside the power plant, which was built underground on one of the banks of the lake.

Tuesday's explosion caused a fire and the collapse of part of the structure, with a water pipeline breaking and flooding the site, Italian media reported.

Three people were also seriously injured in the incident at the plant, run by Enel Green Power.

A rescue diver told Italian newspaper La Repubblica that rescuers had reached seven floors below ground but there were problems trying to go deeper, where three people were feared trapped.

“This is a historic power plant for us,” said Marco Masinara, the mayor of the nearby town of Camugnano, adding: "Today ... our world collapsed.”

At least four killed in a blast at a hydroelectric plant in Italy

At least four killed in a blast at a hydroelectric plant in Italy

He said the power plant had been managed by Enel for 50 years, providing jobs for many families, and "until today, nothing ever happened".

Mr Masinara said that as well as the three seriously injured, another two people suffered lesser injuries.

Lake Suviana was created with the construction of a dam in 1932 and sits at an altitude of 500 metres.

The cause of the explosion has yet to be officially determined.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said she was “following with apprehension the terrible news regarding the explosion”.

Enel Green Power the renewables unit of energy company Enel, said it was co-ordinating with authorities.

“Following investigations, the dam basin of the Bargi plant was not damaged and is safe,” Enel added.

Production was halted, but there was no impact on local or national supply, it said.

Chief executive Salvatore Bernabei travelled to the site to follow developments.

The Bargi plant, which can pump water into the reservoir to balance the grid at times of oversupply, is the largest power station in the central Emilia Romagna region.

It can produce 330MW of power, enough to supply about 600,000 average European households.

Updated: April 10, 2024, 12:54 PM