Oil rig explosion investigated

Rescuers
have found 11 people who went missing in the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion
and fire damaged an oil rig and critically injured seven people.

A
local official said all of the offshore drilling
platform’s 126 workers were alive and safe.

The Coast Guard said that it was
working to verify that all the workers had indeed escaped safely from the
explosion.

It had previously indicated that up
to 12 workers were believed to be missing.

An explosion rocked the Deepwater
Horizon semi-submersible rig Wednesday.

The platform was listing about 70
degrees and still burning overnight some 84 kilometres southeast of Venice on
the coast of Louisiana state.

“Fifteen were evacuated to
hospitals, seven had critical injuries,” said Third Class Petty Officer
Mike Blakney, spokesman for the Eighth Coast Guard District headquartered in
New Orleans, Louisiana.

“The fire is still burning;
they have four fireboats on scene fighting the fire.”

Survivors were found on the rig and
in waters surrounding it. Some were in life rafts, Officer Blakney said.

Among the seven workers who were
badly hurt, four were flown to local hospitals by helicopter, including to a
trauma centre in Mobile, Alabama.

“The cause of the explosion
and the cause of the fire are under investigation,” said Coast Guard
spokeswoman Lieutenant Sue Kerver.

The Coast Guard had dispatched
three HH-65 C Dolphin rescue helicopters, an HH-60 rescue helicopter and an
HC-144 Ocean Sentry rescue plane to participate in the rescue efforts, along
with two cutters. Three other cutters were en route to assist search and rescue
workers.

The rig, owned by Transocean Ltd,
was under contract to BP Exploration and Production, Inc.

Officer Blakney said the Coast
Guard, the Minerals Management Service and BP would conduct a joint
investigation on the possible causes of the accident.

Environmental teams will assess the
environmental damage after all workers have been accounted for and the fire has
been extinguished, he said.

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