The 271 days that lasted the machine house of the construction hydroelectric plant in Ituango, when an emergency forced to divert the Cauca River through its interior, left "recoverable damages" in the heart of the work, which under these conditions is expected between in operation at the end of 2021.
To this conclusion came the conglomerate of Empresas Publicas de Medellín (EPM), which builds the plant in Ituango, municipality of the department of Antioquia (northwest), in a preliminary diagnosis of the gigantic room that, after receiving millions of cubic meters of water, will house the generators of the work that on April 28, 2018 entered into emergency.
"What we find gives a level of tranquility because it allows us to think that we are capable of recovering what is there and putting the project into service," engineer William Giraldo, vice president of Energy Business Generation at EPM, told reporters.
According to the expert, when they subjected the powerhouse to an average pressure of 1,200 cubic meters per second during the flood, they feared that this area might not be able to resist.
However, after evacuating most of the dammed water, the first revisions gave a part of "tranquility" when checking that the three caverns are standing and the roof did not collapse.
"We were hitting the walls of the caverns of the powerhouse for 271 days with a hammer of 750 tons per second," explained the engineer explaining the impact of the flood.
Before the emergency, caused initially by the obstruction of the auxiliary tunnel of water diversion of the Cauca River, the hydroelectric power station was in 87% execution, but with the deterioration suffered in some areas and in part of the machinery there was a "setback" "that has the work currently at 70%.
"The project will end up costing 14.2 billion pesos (about 4.543 billion dollars)," added Giraldo, which means 2.8 trillion pesos (about 896 million dollars) more than initially budgeted.
At the time of its flood, on May 10, 2018, the powerhouse was equipped with equipment valued at 110 million dollars, whose damages will be covered by the insurance, to ensure that generators 3 and 4 are entering "possibly" in service in 2021.
The entrance of 520 cubic meters per second brought consequences, including the appearance between tunnels one and two of a hole 80 meters deep and 20 meters wide that will be plugged with 55,000 cubic meters of concrete and stone over a period of 20 months
Although the area of transformers is in "good condition", the last seven meters of water still to be evacuated have delayed the verification of the state of the soil.
In the southern cavern of the project, the presence of gigantic rocks and rubble does not yet allow access to the assessment and in other areas the damage to the concrete is evident.
EPM's executive vice president, John Maya Salazar, revealed that an international firm will conduct a study to learn in depth the current state of the powerhouse and determine the type of reinforcements required by the structure.
"It will be difficult because there are unprecedented things," said the director, adding that they are "optimistic" for the state they found the vaults (ceilings), a sign that everything is fine from the structural, but repairs must be made.
The revisions to the places of difficult access are made by EPM with cameras and work in the accommodation of derailed gates during the worst phase of the emergency that forced to evacuate at the time some 113,000 inhabitants of Puerto Valdivia and Puerto Antioquia, as well as the municipalities of Cáceres and Tarazá, located on the shores of Cauca, downstream of the dam.