By Noel Iyombwa
AN UNEXPLAINED fire at Kafue Gorge Lower Hydropower Plant (under construction) has killed one employee and leaving another hospitalised while the third one has been discharged.
Energy minister Matthews Nkhuwa confirmed the incident in a statement that the fire occurred on October 23rd 2020 at around 11:30hrs.
Mr Nkhuwa disclosed that preliminary investigations have revealed that the three employees were assigned to cut protruding tie rods bars that were used to hold formwork on the upstream face of the Roller Comparted Concrete (RCC) dam wall.
He explained that as the workers who were in a motorized cage were cutting a tie rod mid-way on the dam surface, fire from the cutting torch caught on to nylon rope that was next to the motorized elevated working platform and the burning rope fell to the foot of the dam on a pile of remnants of polyuria – a waterproof coating that has been applied on the lower section of the upstream face of the dam wall concrete.
The minister said that the polyuria material ignited resulting in approximately one third of the coated surface of the dam wall catching fire.
“The polyuria flame spread upwards very quickly from the foot of the dam and caught the elevated working platform causing the three workers to suffer burns.
He identified the employees as Joseph Muchini who has been discharged from the hospital on October 24, while Silon Chisi and Kakulubelwa Kakulubelwa are still admitted to UTH and that their condition has been described as stable by hospital authorities.
And the minister has noted that the flash-fire incident is not expected to have any impact on the construction milestones of the project other than time required to clean the affected portion of the dam.
He explained that the heat intensity of the fire was very low as the material that burnt was a very thin coating layer with a rapid burning rate and therefore has not affected the concrete structure in any way.
The accident was reported to regulatory and investigative wings and their reports are still being awaited.
By Noel Iyombwa