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All workers safe after Gulf oil rig explosion

The (Montreal) Gazette

An explosion ripped through an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday forcing 13 people into the water, one of whom was injured, the US Coast Guard said.

NEW ORLEANS - An explosion ripped through an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday forcing 13 people into the water, one of whom was injured, the US Coast Guard said.

There was no immediate sign of an oil spill and everything “appears to be” contained “at this time” Patrick Cassidy, a spokesman for Texas-based rig owner Mariner Energy told CNN.

“In an initial flyover by company personnel over the site, there was no hydrocarbon spill that was reported,” Cassidy said.

However the rig was still ablaze and the blast raised fresh pollution fears as the region struggles to recover from the largest ever maritime oil spill, caused by a similar explosion a few hundred miles (kilometers) to the east.

An estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil gushed out of a deepwater well ruptured after the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on April 20 some 52 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

The explosion killed 11 workers and it took nearly three months to stem the flow of oil gushing out of the well some 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) below the surface.

The Mariner rig was operating in relatively shallow water, about 340 feet (103 meters), and was not drilling at the time of the explosion, Cassidy said.

There were seven wells producing approximately 1,400 barrels of oil in total in about 12 million cubic feet of gas in total, he said, adding that “the fire appears to have been quite a bit a ways from where the wells are.”

Thursday’s incident drew immediate condemnation from environmental groups frustrated with lax oversight of the offshore oil and gas industry.

“How many times are we going to gamble with lives, economies and ecosystems?” John Hocevar, Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director, told AFP.

“It’s time we learn from our mistakes and go beyond oil.”

Helicopters rushed to the scene of the latest blast, some 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of Vermilion Bay in Louisiana, to fish out workers who apparently jumped into the sea to save themselves.

“All 13 are accounted for and they are all wearing some sort of an immersion suit that protects them from the water,” Coast Guard chief petty officer John Edwards told MSNBC.

Nine helicopters had been dispatched to the site, Edwards said, adding the extent of any injuries suffered by the workers was not immediately clear.

“Right now we’re focused on search and rescue and then, ultimately, as this thing progresses we’re going to be looking into the cause,” Edwards added.

Four Coast Guard cutters were also en route to the rig.

“We will continue to gather information as we respond, we obviously have response assets ready for deployment, should we receive reports of pollution in the water,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

Gibbs declined to say whether the president believed inspections of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico was moving fast enough in the wake of the BP disaster.

“Obviously we’ve had taken some, we took a series of steps after the BP incident,” Gibbs said.

“If this situation warrants, we’ll certainly update that.”

The Coast Guard said in a statement that it received a report from a nearby helicopter pilot at about 10:00 am (1500 GMT) “stating that 13 people were in the water near an oil platform on fire.”

“The 13 people in the water were picked up by the OSV Crystal Clear and taken to another platform,” the Coast Guard said.

“Coast Guard helicopters are being utilized to transport the rescued to Terrebonne General Hospital.”

Mariner did not immediately returned requests for comments.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.


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