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Russian Hydro-Electric Plant Accident Kills Eight

An accident at Russia's largest hydro-electric power station has killed at least eight workers and authorities say a number of others are still missing.

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office says Monday's accident took place at the Sayano-Shushenskaya power station, located on the Yenisei River in southern Siberia.

According to the committee, the accident occurred when an oil-immersed transformer exploded during equipment repairs at the facility, which is Russia's largest hydro-electric power station. The committee has opened a formal investigation into whether violations of workplace safety rules played a role in the accident.

The state-run company RusHydro, which owns the Sayano-Shushenskaya power station, says the accident was most likely caused by a water surge resulting from an unexpected change in pressure.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has put Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu in charge of the clean-up operation in response to the accident.

Shoigu said in nationally-televised comments that the accident posed no threat to the towns located downstream from the power plant and that there is no danger the plant's dam will collapse.

Russian media quoted a local emergency official as saying that an oil slick had spread five kilometers downstream from the plant's dam. The official said, however, that the oil slick presents, in his words, "no threat to the environment."

RusHydro spokesman Yevgeny Druzyaka told VOA that the exact cause of the accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya power station will not be known until a full-scale investigation is carried out.

Druzyaka says the unit of the facility where the accident took place is in ruins and that the main task at the moment is to rescue anyone who may remain alive under the debris.