La. oil rig survivors back on land; 11 missing

By CAIN BURDEAU and MIKE KUNZELMAN – Associated Press Writers

US Coast Guard / AP Photo – This image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon Wednesday April 21, 2010. The Coast Guard by sea and air planned to search overnight for 11 workers missing since a thunderous explosion rocked an oil drilling platform that continued to burn late Wednesday.

PORT FOURCHON, La.

Survivors of a thunderous blast aboard an oil platform off the Louisiana coast were being reunited with their families at a suburban New Orleans hotel early Thursday as the search for 11 missing workers continued.

About 100 workers had made it to a supply boat after Tuesday night’s explosion, then were plucked from the Gulf of Mexico by Coast Guard rescuers. After a slow-moving trek across the waters, the workers finally made it ashore at Port Fourchon earlier Thursday where they were checked by doctors and brought to a hotel in suburban New Orleans to awaiting relatives.

“I’ve seen a lot of things, but I’ve never seen anything like that,” said a visibly tired worker, who declined to give his name as he got in a car to leave.

The rig, where exploratory drilling was being done about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, exploded late Tuesday, sending workers scurrying for safety. Seventeen people were injured in the blast and taken to hospitals, four critically, in what could be one of the nation’s deadliest offshore drilling accidents of the past half-century.

Coast Guard crews in two cutters have been searching around the clock for the missing, said Coast Guard Lt. Sue Kerver. The air search, which had been called off for the night, resumed Thursday morning.

The rig is owned by Transocean Ltd. and was under contract to oil giant BP.

Authorities could not say when the flames might die out on the 400-by-250-foot rig, which is roughly twice the size of a football field, according the Transocean’s website. A column of boiling black smoke rose hundreds of feet over the Gulf of Mexico as fireboats shot streams of water at the blaze. Officials said the damage to the environment appeared minimal so far.
Read more: http://www.sunherald.com/2010/04/21/2119760/families-await-arrival-of-la-rig.html#ixzz0lpkHWt3U

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