Two Oil Rig Workers Missing

From The Columbia Daily Tribune

Two oil workers remained lost at sea yesterday, a day after a torch being used to cut an oil pipe ignited a blaze that severely burned four others workers on a production platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

The four burned workers are in critical but stable condition. Meanwhile, officials said no oil was leaking from the charred platform, a relief for Gulf Coast residents still weary two years after the BP oil spill illustrated the risk that offshore drilling poses to the region’s ecosystem and economy.

The four workers’ burns were not as extensive as initially reported, said Leslie Hoffman, a spokeswoman for Houston-based Black Elk Energy, which owns the platform. Their conditions yesterday were stable but critical, she said.

Coast Guard officials said in a news release yesterday that helicopters were searching for the missing workers from the air, while a cutter searched the sea.

The images Friday of black smoke billowing from a burning structure in the sea were eerily similar to the Deepwater Horizon blaze, which killed 11 workers and led to an oil spill that took months to bring under control. The fire occurred a day after BP agreed to plead guilty to a raft of charges in the 2010 spill and pay a record $4.5 billion in penalties.

There were a few important differences between this latest blaze and the blaze that touched off the worst offshore spill in U.S. history: Friday’s fire at an oil platform about 25 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La., was extinguished within hours, while the Deepwater Horizon burned for more than a day, collapsed and then sank.

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