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Four of the six men who died in an accident at an Eskom site near Ladysmith were foreigners, Eskom said on Friday.
"Of the six fatalities, four are foreign nationals and two are South Africans," Eskom general manager Gerrie Bronkhorst said.
He would not divulge their nationalities.
Bronkhorst was addressing media along with CEO Brian Dames and chairman Zola Tsotsi.
Dames said an investigation would be led by an external legal team.
"We will ensure that the families are looked after and we will not leave a stone unturned to ensure that they are looked after," Dames said.
"Safety for us is very important. It is important to allow time for the investigation to take place."
Dames said Eskom would not be releasing the names at this time.
Three of the seven workers who were hurt were taken to hospital where they were said to be in critical but stable conditions in the ICU. They have severe upper body injuries. Four others were discharged. The three critically injured are believed to be Filipino nationals while those who were slightly injured were two South Africans, an Italian and a Filipino.
Meanwhile, Eskom engineers worked through the night to piece together the circumstances of the accident at its new Ingula hydro-electric power station.
Emergency teams, assisted by sniffer dogs, medical helicopters and dozens of paramedics, worked until late on Thursday retrieving the injured and the bodies of the dead.
According to the parastatal, the workers died when an eight-ton movable platform, which had been on a 24-degree incline, came loose and rolled back, crushing six workers to death.
They were among 3 387 workers building South Africa’s third hydroelectric facility, due to be opened next year. With 14km of tunnels, it is set to be the biggest in South Africa. It is a R25 billion project.
Nestled in the picturesque Drakensberg Mountains between Harrismith and Ladysmith, the Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme, which is being built to ease the country’s energy crisis, is expected to generate 1 332MW and has an energy storage capacity of 21 000MWh when it goes live at the end of next year.
On Thursday night, Dames, and the group executive for capital projects, Dan Marokane flew to the site from Johannesburg and were briefed on the progress of the investigation into the tragedy. The entire site had been evacuated and the workers told to go home until further notice, acting Eskom spokesman, Andrew Etzinger, said.
He said that contrary to initial reports, a tunnel did not collapse.
Etzinger said the incident occurred at about 9am on Thursday in one of the two tunnels that supply water to the four generators.
“This is a pump storage power station consisting of an upper dam and a lower dam. Water is released from the upper dam to the lower dam to generate electricity,” he said. “During Eskom’s peak time on the national grid we draw electricity from other storage sites to pump the water back. It operates like a big battery.”
Etzinger explained that water, when travelling between the upper dam and the lower dam, moved through tunnels. “There are two tunnels that link the upper dam and the lower dam. Water is transported in one tunnel to supply the water to the first and second of four generators.
“The second tunnel supplies the third and fourth generators. It was in this tunnel carrying water to the third and fourth generators that the tragedy occurred.”
He said the tunnel the workers had been working in was 970m long and they had been constructing it for over a year and were nearing the top when tragedy struck.
“For some reason, and this will be subject to an investigation, the platform on which the team were working came loose and rolled down the tunnel and fatally injured the workers that were in its path.”
Etzinger said the entire site would remain closed until it was deemed safe for workers to return.
Getting back to work was the last thing on the workers’ minds right now, he said. “We will need to ensure the site is safe and our workers are fine.”
Daily News and Sapa