Explosion at Vila do Bispo wind farm sees critically burned workers airlifted to hospital

A freak explosion in a turbine at Vila do Bispo’s wind farm yesterday has caused horrific burns to two workers, both of whom are now fighting for their lives in hospital.

As investigations are ongoing as to what caused the explosion, fire chiefs have described the emergency that saw both men rushed to burns units in Coimbra and Lisbon.

One was airlifted by helicopter to Coimbra from the spot, while the other was rushed first to Portimão hospital by ambulance, and then airlifted to Lisbon.

The “accident” even led to a fire around the turbine, but this was quickly extinguished.

What appears to have happened is that an “electric discharge” rocked the box powering the turbine’s mechanism – “projecting” the two men, understood to have been carrying out routine maintenance some distance.

“The two were conscious, but one had 80% of his body burned, while the other had about 70%”, said Sónia Prata of Vila do Bispo fire station.

Both men had to be intubated, as the tragedy was that they took most of the blast at chest level, affecting the lungs and air passages.

Vila do Bispo football pitch had to be used by the INEM helicopter that evacuated the worst affected man, as it is impossible to land an aircraft among the park’s rows of turbines.

This was not the first incident at the farm which is one of the oldest in Portugal.

Erected in 1997, it had another “electric discharge” drama in November last year when a fire broke out at the top of a turbine (see photo), 100 m from ground level.

In this first incident, no one was hurt.

People remarking on the incident when it was reported by Facebook said this was by no means the first time a turbine had burst into flames at aerogenerator level, high up where no fire hose can reach.

In these cases, the only course of action is to let the fire go out on its own, windpark spokesman Pedro Sousa explained, but this causes knock-on consequences – like the falling to the ground of the massive “paddles”.

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