Offshore News: Mexico hunts for survivors of oil rig accident
Posted on 26.10.2007 - 21:00 EDT in GENERAL NEWS by Rons_ROV_Links
Mexican navy rescue teams aboard helicopters and boats scoured the seas on Thursday for seven missing oil workers who fled an offshore rig that was damaged in a deadly storm.
Weather conditions began to calm in parts of the Gulf of Mexico, which was struck by a cold front earlier in the week that killed 18 oil workers at the battered drilling platform.
The Coatzacoalcos and Dos Bocas ports -- two of the country's three major points of departure for crude shipments -- reopened on Thursday morning after turbulent seas shuttered them on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The third major oil port, Cayo Arcas, remained closed for a third straight day amid waves of 10 to 12 feet (3.6 meters).
Mexico's state oil company Pemex said rescue crews had not given up on their search for the missing workers from the rig, which was in the Kab oil field in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.
"It is not over yet. There are more helicopters because the weather has improved," said Pemex spokesman Javier Delgado.
State-owned oil monopoly Pemex said late on Wednesday 61 people had been rescued after 25-foot (8 meter) waves knocked the Usumacinta drilling platform into an adjacent rig late on Tuesday.
Survivors of the accident told harrowing tales of jumping into life rafts despite 80 mph (130 kph) winds after the collision caused leaks in crude oil and natural gas pipes.
"We knew the sea conditions were adverse, but we left because we had no choice," said oilman Eder Ortega, who also described the scene when one emergency raft started to sink.
"It was breaking up little by little until the raft finally went under and all my colleagues ended up in the water," Ortega told local radio.
Exploration and Production Chief Carlos Morales called the accident one of the worst in Pemex's history.
Pemex has said U.S. buyers of its oil should not be hurt as it would reschedule the delayed shipments once the storm passed.
The company said late on Wednesday it would take up to five days to seal the leaking natural gas and oil but that the extent of the crude spill was less than previously thought.
Mexico is a top three supplier of oil to the United States, which takes around 80 percent of its southern neighbor's oil exports. Ships stopped leaving port early on Tuesday.
Pemex, which has exported an average of 1.708 million bpd this year, often has to deal with rerouting or rescheduling oil shipments to avoid storms and hurricanes on Mexico's coast.