Oil rig in Gulf of Mexico sinks after explosion; eleven missing

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Friday, April 23, 2010

The oil rig Deepwater Horizon sank yesterday after an explosion Tuesday night that left eleven people missing.

The oil rig Deepwater Horizon ablaze Wednesday.
Image: United States Coast Guard.

According to an officer from the US Coast Guard, the rig sank sometime in the morning. The rig had caught fire after an explosion of unknown origin occurred two days ago. 115 of the 126 workers on board the time of the explosion have been rescued after evacuating in lifeboats, either by the Coast Guard or from other ships in the area.

The remaining eleven have not been located, although Coast Guard officials have expressed optimism that they are still alive.

The environmental impacts of the explosion and subsequent sinking of the rig are unclear. While up to 13,000 gallons of crude oil per hour has been released from the rig, until now, the effects have been considered minimal, as it had been burned off in the fire. That does have the potential to change, though, according to David Rainey, vice president of the lessor of the rig, BP. The rig, built in 2001 by Hyundai Heavy Industries was owned and operated by Transocean.

The rig was located roughly 50 miles southeast of the coast of Louisiana, and was under lease to BP since 2007. It was completing the construction of a new oil well, and was constructing a layer of cement in the well to reinforce it. This is considered dangerous, as it has the potential to produce an uncontrolled release of case, called a blowout. While the cause of the explosion has yet to be determined, a blowout is considered a possibility.

One survivor of the explosion, who declined to give his name, told the The New York Times that he was laying in bed when the explosion happened. "It caught me by surprise. I’ve been in offshore 25 years, and I’ve never seen anything like that," he recalled.

Stanley Murray, the father of another survivor named Chad, an electrician, said: "My son had just walked off the drill floor." However, Murray said that a neighbor did not make it in time, adding that his son told him that the missing eleven workers could not have made it out alive. "The eleven that’s [sic] missing, they won’t find them," Murray said.


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