Oil rig off Louisiana has sunk

by Hans | April 23rd, 2010

An oil drilling rig that was burning in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast sank on Thursday as rescuers continued searching for 11 missing workers, the platform’s operator Transocean Ltd said. The Deepwater Horizon went below the surface at 10:21 a.m. CDT (1521 GMT). It was unclear whether it sank to the bottom in several thousand feet of water. The Coast Guard said private interests reported that the fire was extinguished.

The Deepwater Horizon seen just minutes before disappearing under the surface

The Coast Guard, which had sent all vessels, helicopters and aircraft in the area to look for the missing, was diverting aircraft to the scene 42 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana, to confirm the reports, a spokesman said. The rig was drilling for BP Plc with 126 workers on board when it was ripped by an explosion and fire about 10 p.m. CDT Tuesday. Some 115 workers escaped, including 17 helicoptered to New Orleans area hospitals with injuries. “I can confirm it sunk,” Guy Cantwell, a spokesman for Transocean, said. Preparations were underway to control the flow of oil from the damaged well and to clean up the spill of oil and other fluids from the crippled rig, officials said.

The Deepwater Horizon, a floating offshore rig that went into service in 2001, had been under contract to BP for a rate of more than $500,000 per day, Transocean said. The explosion comes almost three weeks after President Barack Obama unveiled plans for a limited expansion of U.S. offshore oil and gas drilling. The search continued on Thursday for the 11 workers missing since the initial blast. Officials said they have not given up hope of finding the missing workers alive, carried from the scene by ocean currents. Transocean, based in Zug, Switzerland, is the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor. BP, one of the world’s largest oil companies, is a leading oil and gas operator in the Gulf. The rig explosion did not have an effect on crude oil prices because the well was not in production mode. Shares of Transocean fell 50 cents to $89.87 traded on the New York Stock Exchange, while shares of BP traded on the NYSE were off 63 cents to $59.45.

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