Eleven oil rig workers are still missing after what appeared to be a blowout explosion on a Transocean oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday night. Teams of rescue workers continue to search 2,000 square miles of sea around the blast site, covering the area a dozen times by air and 5 times by boat.
The other 115 workers have been accounted for. 111 made it to shore, where 17 were being treated for burn injuries, broken bones, and smoke inhalation. Four of the injured are in critical condition. The injured workers have been taken to hospitals in New Orleans and Mobile for treatment.
Four of the 126 workers who operate a drilling robot from a boat are safe and continue their work offshore.
The Deepwater Horizon oil platform, which is about twice the size of a football field, is located about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Hyundai built the rig in South Korea in 2001. It is owned by Transocean, the world’s largest offshore oil drilling company, and is under contract to BP. 79 Transocean employees, 6 BP workers, and 41contracted workers were concluding exploratory drilling when the explosion occurred.
Transocean vice president Adrian Rose said the blast was likely a blowout caused by natural gas forcing its way up the well pipe. The incident remains under investigation.
Offshore oil rig work has become safer in recent years due to improved training, safety systems, and maintenance, but it remains an extremely dangerous occupation.
In the last 9 years, 69 people have been killed and 1,349 injured in oil rig accidents just in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the federal Minerals Management Service, there have been 858 fires and explosions in the Gulf during that same period of time.
The deadliest offshore oil rig explosion on record was in 1988 when 167 workers were killed by a blast on a rig situated about 120 miles off the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland.