Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The U.S. Coast Guard : 12 are missing after blast in Gulf of Mexico

The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that 12 people were still missing mid-morning on Wednesday following a massive overnight fire aboard an offshore rig operating about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico.
A coast guard official said firefighters were still battling the blaze that broke out around 10 p.m. aboard the Deepwater Horizon.
The semi-submersible rig is owned and operated by Houston-based Transocean, the world's largest offshroe drilling contractor, and has been under lease by BP since 2007.
The U.S. Coast Guard said 15 workers had been transported by air ambulance early Wednesday morning and were being treated at West Jefferson Hospital in New Orleans and at the Mobile Trauma Center in Mobile, Ala.
A spokeswoman for West Jefferson Medical Center said four of the injured were taken there early this morning but three have been discharged.
Seven people in all were critically injured in the fire, the cause of which is still being investigated. Ninety-nine others who were safely evacuated from the rig are currently en route to Port Fourchon,the U.S. Coast Guard said.
In a recent fleet report, Transocean said Deepwater Horizon entered service in 2001 and can operate in 10,000 feet of water and drilling to a depth of 30,000 feet. The company has about 17 rigs operating in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said his firm had six employees on board who were safe and accounted for.
Coast Guard officials have described the incident as an explosion and fire, but a statement from Transocean just describes it as a fire. The incident appears to be one of the worst offshore fires in the Gulf of Mexico in the last two decades.
Offshore fires are relatively rare and can be caused by any number of events, from improper welding to blowouts of flammable hydrocarbons. The U.S. Minerals Management Service, which inspects rigs for safety and investigates accidents, has records of 11 fires since 1990, two resulting in two fatalities.
The Coast Guard will be conducting an investigation of the cause of the blaze with BP and the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the Coast Guard said.
The incident comes only weeks after a major fire at a Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington killed six people and five years after a massive explosion at a BP refining facility in Texas City claimed the lives of 15 workers. The accidents have put the safety record of the oil and gas industry in the spotlight.
“Every time an incident like this occurs, we ask ourselves what, can we do better,” Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas industry trade group, told reporters in Houston this morning after hearing about the incident offshore Louisiana. ”Among the oil and gas industry, any injury or fatality is too much.”
Transocean has set up a phone number for family members of the workers onboard the drilling rig. They may call (832) 587-8554 for any updates or information

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