12 workers missing after U.S. rig blast

08:27, April 22, 2010      

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At least 12 people were missing and seven critically injured after an explosion on an oil rig in the U.S. state of Louisiana, authorities said on Wednesday.

Earlier reports said at least 11 people were missing after the explosion, which happened late Tuesday night at the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

The rig, located about 52 km southeast of Venice, Louisiana, was still burning at midday Wednesday, local media quoted Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Mike O'Berry as saying.

Seven people were badly hurt and hospitalized, including at least two who were sent to a mobile trauma center, O'Berry said.

Most of the 126 workers who were on board the rig at the time of the blast have escaped safely.

Greg Panagos, a spokesman with Transocean, which owns the rig, said workers on the rig were evacuated "within minutes" of the fire breaking out.

The Coast Guard said it has sent helicopters from New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mobile, Alabama, to help evacuate people from the rig and search for the missing.

Built in 2001, the semi-submersible rig is owned by Houston- based Transocean, the world's largest offshore drilling contractor, and has been under lease by BP since 2007. It was drilling but was not in production.

The incident seems to be one of the worst offshore fires in the Gulf of Mexico in several years, local media said.

Fifty-five rigs were actively drilling in U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico as of April 16, according to Baker Hughes, a company that counts rigs for the petroleum industry.

The Coast Guard said it will be conducting an investigation into the cause of the explosion with BP and the U.S. Minerals Management Service.

An oil spill is possible when an explosion occurs, Minerals Management Service spokeswoman Eileen Angelico was quoted by CNN as saying on Wednesday.

But she said the agency had received no reports of an oil spill connected with Tuesday night's blast.



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