(NBC) - The agonizing wait stretched into the early morning for 11 families in south Louisiana.
"We have no idea where the 11 unaccounted for personnel are at this time, and we're going to search," U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry said.
The men are still missing after a violent explosion late Tuesday night on an oil rig about 50 miles off the coast. As the search continued overnight, so did the fire that initially engulfed the platform and pushed a blanket of thick black smoke across the gulf sky.
"We don't have an awful lot of information about the immediate period of time and the sequence of events just before," Adrien Rose of Transocean said.
Officials with the Swiss contractor Transocean, which owns the rig, said the explosion appeared to be a blowout - natural gas or oil forced its way up a well pipe and sparked the blast.
But they stress the investigation is ongoing and there's no definitive cause at this point.
"We don't know what caused the incident, our efforts firstly concentrate on caring for the people and secondly securing the rig," said Rose.
At least 17 people were injured and several are still in the hospital this morning.
Close to 100 managed to escape the flames. They were reunited with family members overnight at a suburban New Orleans hotel.
Also joining the families of their missing friends waiting and praying for a miracle.