At least 18 people died in an explosion on Wednesday at a unit of thermal power firm NTPC – formerly known as the National Power Thermal Corporation – in Uttar Pradesh’s Unchahar town in Rae Bareli district. Reports said a pipe exploded at the plant when hundreds of labourers were working inside.

Uttar Pradesh Principal Secretary (Home) Arvind Kumar said around 90 to 100 people were injured in the explosion. Some 22 victims with severe burn injuries were taken to a hospital in Lucknow for treatment. Several workers are feared trapped, and the toll is likely to rise.

Chief Medical Officer DK Singh confirmed the deaths. Chief Minister Adityanath ordered quick rescue and relief work. He also announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh for the families of those who died, Rs 50,000 for those critically injured and Rs 25,000 for the others injured.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “deeply pained by the accident” and that “the situation is being closely monitored”.

A 32-member team of the National Disaster Response Force is in Unchahar to help with the rescue work, ANI reported. Operations at the boiler plant has been closed.

The plant started generating power from coal in 1988.