VERMILION BAY, LA (WAFB/AP) - An oil platform exploded and burned off the Louisiana coast Thursday, the second such disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in less than five months.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Coklough said Mariner Energy, Inc., the Houston company that owns the rig, had deployed three firefighting vessels to the site and one already was in place fighting the blaze. The Coast Guard had reported that a 100-foot-wide oil sheen had been spotted near the platform, but now says there is no sign of an oil leak.
According to the Coast Guard, 13 people were on the platform when it caught fire Thursday morning. All 13 are accounted for and one injury was reported.
The workers will be taken to Terrebonne General Medical Center in Houma by helicopter to be fully checked out.
The rig is located about 90 miles south of Vermilion Bay.
The Coast Guard said it received a call at 9:19 a.m. from a neighboring rig that Vermilion 380 was on fire. A helicopter pilot then reported at about 10 a.m. he saw 13 people floating in the water in special suits near a burning oil rig platform.
Rescue helicopters and Coast Guard cutters were immediately sent to the scene. The rig is in water about 340 feet deep. Mariner said this is a platform rig, not a drilling rig.
The company reported there were seven active wells on the platform and one caught fire, but all are now shut in. Mariner also reported the platform produced an average of 1,400 barrels of oil per day, as well as 1,800 barrels of natural gas each day.
Mariner says stored barrels were the ones that caught fire and that dispersants are on standby if needed.
United Steelworkers (USW) International Vice President Gary Beevers issued a statement concerning the fire.
"We are thankful that no one was killed in the explosion today of an offshore petroleum platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, one person was injured and that is one person too many," he said.
"This latest explosion shows that we need to make sure all these rigs in the Gulf are safe to operate before we put personnel back to work on them. I would hate to see a worker killed in our haste to reopen the Gulf to drilling. We need to give the government adequate time to do its inspections and ensure adequate health and safety provisions are in place," he explained.
"Meanwhile, adequate assistance needs to be given to offshore workers and the businesses impacted by the moratorium that resulted from the BP explosion and oil spill," he added.
This recent explosion is about 200 miles west of the one that happened on April 20 which caused a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.