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Huge Connecticut power plant explosion kills five

Five workers have died after a massive blast blew apart a power plant in the eastern United States as workers building it purged natural gas lines.

The blast at the Kleen Energy Systems plant in Middletown Connecticut killed at least five people and injured a at least a dozen more.

Deputy fire marshal Al Santostefano said crews were still searching for survivors in the rubble of the plant, about 32km south of Hartford.

Santostefano said about 50 people were in the area yesterday when the explosion occurred. He said it was difficult to tell how many people were at the plant because multiple contractors were working there, each with their own employee lists.

The 620-megawatt plant was being built to produce energy primarily using natural gas. Santostefano said workers for construction company O&G Industries were purging the gas lines, a procedure he called a “blow-down”, when the explosion occurred.

Kleen Energy Systems began building the power plant in February 2008. It had signed a capacity deal with Connecticut Light and Power for the electricity produced by the plant. BConstruction was due to for completion by the middle of this year.

The company is run by president and former Middletown City Council member William Corvo.

Plants powered by natural gas are taking on a much larger role in generating electricity for the US. Gas emits about half the greenhouse gases of coal-fired plants and new technology has allowed natural gas companies to begin to unlock gas supplies that could total more than 100 years at current usage levels.

Natural gas is used to make about a fifth of the nation’s electricity.

In February 2009, an explosion at a We Energies coal-fired power plant near Milwaukee burned six workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is still investigating.

In the past few years, an explosion at a Dominion Virginia Power coal-fired plant in Massachusetts killed three workers in November 2007, while one worker and nine others were injured at an American Electric Power plant of the same type in Beverly, Ohio, in January 2007.

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