A massive rescue effort has led to the recovery of 11 people who went missing in the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion and fire damaged an oil rig and critically injured seven people, The Times-Picayune reported Wednesday.
The newspaper cited a local official as saying that all of the offshore drilling platform's 126 workers were alive and safe. The Coast Guard told AFP that it was working to verify that all the workers had indeed escaped safely from the explosion.
It had previously indicated that up to 12 workers were believed to be missing.
A explosion rocked the Deepwater Horizon semi-submersible rig around 10:00 pm Thursday (0300 GMT Wednesday).
The platform was listing about 70 degrees and still burning Wednesday some 52 miles (84 kilometers) southeast of Venice on the coast of Louisiana state.
"Fifteen were evacuated to hospitals, seven had critical injuries," said Third Class Petty Officer Mike Blakney, spokesman for the Eighth Coast Guard District headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana.
"The fire is still burning, they have four fireboats on scene fighting the fire."
Survivors were found on the rig and in waters surrounding it. Some were in life rafts, Blakney told AFP.
Among the seven workers who were badly hurt, four were flown to local hospitals by helicopter, including to a trauma center in Mobile, Alabama.
"The cause of the explosion and the cause of the fire are under investigation," said Coast Guard spokeswoman Lieutenant Sue Kerver.
The Coast Guard had dispatched three HH-65 C Dolphin rescue helicopters, an HH-60 rescue helicopter and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry rescue plane to participate in the rescue efforts, along with two cutters. Three other cutters were en route to assist search and rescue workers.
The rig, owned by Transocean Ltd., was under contract to BP Exploration and Production, Inc.
Blakney said the Coast Guard, the Minerals Management Service and BP would conduct a joint investigation on the possible causes of the accident. Environmental teams will assess the environmental damage after all workers have been accounted for and the fire has been extinguished, he added.
According to Transocean, the Deepwater Horizon platform is 396 feet (121 meters) long and 256 feet (78 meters) wide. It can accommodate a crew of up to 130.
Built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea in 2001, the rig can drill up to 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) deep and operate "in harsh environments and water depths up to 8,000 feet" (2,438 meters), Transocean said.
Transocean's Emergency and Family Response Teams were working with the US Coast Guard and BP to care for workers who escaped and search for those still missing.
Based in Houston, Texas, Transocean said it is the world's largest offshore drilling contractor, with a fleet of 140 mobile offshore drilling units, in addition to three ultra-deepwater units under construction.