Apr 21, 2010 9:42 AM by Associated Press

At least seven hurt in oil rig blast, up to 15 missing

At least seven people were injured and up to 15 feared missing after an explosion at an oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana's coast, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The explosion was reported on the rig, which is 52 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana, at around 10 p.m. Tuesday, Coast Guard senior petty officer Mike O'Berry said. It was still burning Wednesday morning.

Three of those injured in the blast were critically hurt, according to Fox 8 News and radio station WWL First News, citing parish and Coast Guard officials. Two of those hurt were suffering from burns. No deaths have been reported.

FOX 8 reported that the burn victims were being airlifted to a Baton Rouge hospital, while other injured people were being flown to Belle Chasse, then taken by ambulance to West Jefferson Hospital.

O'Berry told WWL First News that they knew everyone got off the rig after the explosion.

However he said they had been "making sure everybody is accounted for and conducting any search operations if needed," WWL reported. As of 3:00 a.m., he said that 115 people out of a crew of 126 had been accounted for.

However there were also reports that as many as 15 were missing and the Coast Guard was trying to resolve this.

O'Berry told the Associated Press that four helicopters, four Coast Guard boats and a plane were helping search for some workers who were unaccounted for Wednesday.

"We're hoping everyone's in a life raft," he said.

At the same time, fire boats were still battling the fire at the oil platform, called Deepwater Horizon. "It's burning pretty good and there's no estimate on when the fire will be put out," O'Berry said.

O'Berry said at one point the fire was so large and intense that it was hampering rescue efforts, WWL TV reported.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said that as of 5:30 a.m., 15 people that were aboard the rig were still missing, WWL TV reported on its website. There had been reports of a lifeboat seen after the incident and a search was continuing to find it, he said.

Nungesser also told the station that the rig was leaning and could become submerged. "The rig is leaning badly and the Coast Guard commander down here feels like it may go over sometime today," he said. "It's still on fire."

Transocean, which owns the rig, said in a statement that the rig was leased to BP Exploraiton & Production.

"A substantial majority of the 126 member crew is safe but some crew members remain unaccounted for at this time," it said.

"Injured personnel are receiving medical treatment as necessary," the statement added. "The names and hometowns of injured persons are being withheld until family members can be notified."

"As far as we know there have been no fatalities, but this could change," Transocean spokesman Greg Panagos was quoted as saying by the website



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