Tuesday, May 17

Didcot power station collapse: Rescuers using drones to search for three missing people buried under rubble



Rescuers are using drones to search for three missing people believed to be buried under the rubble of the collapsed Didcot power station.

One person was killed in the collapse and a major search operation is under way for three other construction workers, where a “major incident” was declared shortly after emergency services were called at 4pm.

Oxfordshire Assistant Chief Fire Officer Simon Furlong said crews are using dogs, thermal imaging instruments, acoustic equipment and drones in the rescue operation.

He said: “The search and rescue teams are methodically working through the sections.

A day after a building collapsed at Didcot Power Station in Oxfordshire, England, on Feb. 23, a major search operation is still underway for three missing persons. One person died in the incident and five others are undergoing treatment at the hospital. All those dead, injured and missing are reported to be workers, who were preparing the closed-down coal and power plant for demolition. The site is located near the Didcot B power station, an an active natural-gas power plant. Click through to see more images.

“At the moment, because of the nature of the building, we haven’t moved anything – we have got specialist contractors coming down here who were involved in the Cheshire Mill incident.

“The structure is very, very unstable and we are concerned about the integrity of the building.

He added that although sniffer dogs had detected ‘some signs of life’ this did not necessarily mean there are survivors in the rubble and no ‘clear signs of life’ have been detected.

He said: “We’ve had some signs (of life) from the search dogs, but this is a very difficult situation with the debris field, so they are working with those crews.

“We’ve had no significant signs, but that doesn’t mean to say there isn’t saveable lives still within the building.”

The fire service advised people to stay indoors, saying that while dust from the collapse had covered “a considerable area” there were no hazardous materials in the building.

Oxfordshire deputy chief fire officer Nathan Travis said specialist urban search and rescue teams, including sniffer dogs, are at the “challenging” site from as far away as the West Midlands.

He said: “The building is potentially 10 storeys high, half of that building has collapsed, so you have got a rubble pile which is approximately 20 to 30 feet deep at the moment.

Asked what the chances were of finding the missing alive he replied: “At the moment I can’t give you any details on that but it is a substantial collapse of a building.”

Pictures from the scene showed a significant chunk of a building in the defunct Didcot A site has collapsed, with a large amount of debris on the ground.

A GMB union official said: “We understand that workers were preparing two boilers for demolition in the coming weeks. This led to the collapse of a building.”

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said five casualties were taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

A spokesman said: “Four of the men are in a stable and non-life threatening condition, while one man is in a serious but not life-threatening condition.”

There is currently a 100-metre cordon in place and a number of fire engines and an incident support unit have since left the scene.

Colin King, 44, who has lived near the power station for the past 18 years, said: “There was no bang, just a loud rumble.

“Normally we get given information on anything big they’re doing. We usually hear small bangs but I knew something was out of the ordinary.”

“Once I heard all the sirens I knew it was serious,” he continued. “Then I saw half the building hanging off – that was a giveaway.”

He said the dust from the collapse was the same as when the towers were brought down last year.

Another resident, who did not want to give her name, also said there was no bang, describing the noise as more of a “bubbling”.

“From the explosion from the towers coming down last year you could feel it in the floor, but we did not feel anything today.

“It is quite a shock what’s happened.”

David Cooke, whose company Thames Cryogenics has a building overlooking the power station, said: “Our building shook and as we looked out of the window, the end of the main turbine hall collapsed in a huge pile of dust.

“It totally obscured the towers and must have drifted across the roads and main rail line. What’s left looks a tangled mess.”

“The dust was hanging over the area for five to 10 minutes,” Mr Cooke said.

“First thought was it didn’t look planned, followed by the thought that people are going to have been hurt.”

Didcot A opened in 1970 as a coal-fired power station and was later converted so it could also generate power from natural gas.

It ceased generation in March 2013 and hundreds gathered to watch when three of its enormous cooling towers were blown up in July 2014 after dominating the town’s skyline for more than four decades.

According to the RWE npower website the total demolition of the site is expected to be complete by the end of this year.

The incident comes 16 months after a major fire struck a cooling tower at Didcot B in October 2014.

The blaze affected 50% of the station output – supplying a million homes.

An npwer spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that shortly after 4pm this afternoon part of the boiler house at our former Didcot A power station site in Oxfordshire collapsed while an external demolition contractor was working in it.

“Our thoughts are with the families of all those involved in this tragedy.”

Coleman and Company, the firm behind the demolition, tweeted: “We are aware of an incident at Didcot A Power Station. We are working with all stakeholders to establish facts and will keep you updated.”