U.S. News

Workers accounted for at Connecticut blast

BOSTON (Reuters) - All workers at the Connecticut power plant construction site rocked by a massive explosion on Sunday have been accounted for, leaving the death toll at five, the town’s mayor said on Monday.

“All persons who were assigned to the site yesterday at the time of the blast are now accounted for,” Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano said in a statement.

Giuliano said recovery efforts have been suspended for now because of unsafe conditions in parts of the building where the explosion and a subsequent fire took place.

Falling debris remains a concern for investigators, with wind gusts on site anticipated at 25 miles per hour (40 kilometers per hour).

Federal investigators have arrived on the scene, and hope to determine the cause of the explosion at the privately owned Kleen Energy Systems LLC plant, which was in the final stages of construction.

U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigators will examine what was happening at the time of the accident, including reports that gas purging had occurred before the blast, said lead investigator Don Holstrom, who works out of the board’s Denver office.

The agency is charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents.

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Last week, it issued urgent recommendations that fuel gas codes be changed to improve safety when gas pipes are being purged, or cleared of air, during maintenance or installation.

State officials as well as local and fire and police units are also working on an “origin and cause” investigation.

Construction of the 620-megawatt dual-fuel power plant was 95 percent complete, and it was set to come on-line in the summer as one of New England’s largest electricity producers.

“The loss of this facility will increase the value of other generation supply and demand-side resources that can serve Connecticut,” said William Hederman, a senior vice president at Concept Capital’s Washington Research Group.

Kleen Energy Systems is majority-owned by Energy Investors Funds Group, a private equity firm. The plant received a “power deal of the year” award from EuroMoney magazine in 2008 after EIF put together $1.35 billion in financing.

Reporting by Ros Krasny, additional reporting by Scott DiSavino; editing by Paul Simao and Vicki Allen