One dead and three missing after decommissioned power plant collapse

One person has been confirmed dead and another three are missing and thought likely to have died following the partial collapse of the decommission Didcot A power plant.

The combined coal and oil power plant has been closed since 2013 after 43 years of service, and lies about ten miles south of Oxford. After having opted out of the European Union’s Large Combustion Plant Directive, which required the installation of flue gas desulphurisation technology to combat pollution, the plant was not allowed to continue operating. Scheduled demolition has been underway since 2014, and it was during preparation to safely bring down the former boiler house on Tuesday that the unplanned collapse occurred.

Initial reports were of a large explosion at the site, with residents in the area familiar with the sounds and sights associated with the various planned explosive demolitions which had been carried out on the site over the past few years. However, residents nearby typically receive notification of demolitions, which tend to occur in the early hours of the morning, leading many to suspect that a serious accident had just unfolded.

Four or five people were injured in the collapse which occurred at 4pm, three seriously, and about 50 people were treated for dangerous dust inhalation at the scene. Casualties were transferred to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford for treatment by ambulance and air ambulance.

Coleman and Company are the demolition contractors who were working on the buildings at the time of the catastrophe, and 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.”

The pile of rubble after the collapse is reportedly around thirty feet deep, which is making for treacherous conditions to conduct the search for the missing people, with the Deputy Chief Fire Officer Nathan Travis predicting that the search would be  “considerable due to the instability of the site”. The scenario has been worsened by freezing temperatures overnight, through which the search and rescue teams have been working with the use of powerful lights. Teams from the surrounding counties have been enlisted to help due to the magnitude of the incident, with specialists from Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and the West Midlands arriving with dogs.

As this somber task continues a 100m cordon exists around the collapsed area, with the aftermath of dust, rubble and tangled metal being likened to the site of the Twin Towers in New York following the 11th September 2001 attacks. The Secretary of Oxfordshire’s Fire Brigade Unit said: “I stood there watching the sun coming up, looked over at it and thought about what our colleagues in New York faced. […] It just brought home about how devastating that must have been – this is our own small version”.

Kieran Conaty, the senior project director for the demolition, revealed that contractors Coleman and Company had not undertaken such a task before, saying: “”The client was made aware that this was our first power station – we’d never done anything like this”. The comment was made in a corporate film on Youtube, in which Mr Conaty added: “But we’re that type of a company that we learn to adapt”. He added that the company had brought in an expert with “30 years of experience” in the business of demolishing large power plants.