Deepwater Horizon oil rig fire leaves 11 missing

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Deepwater Horizon oil rig fire leaves 11 missing

Helicopters, ships and an aeroplane searched the waters off Louisiana's coast today for at least 11 workers missing after an explosion and fire that left an offshore drilling platform tilting in the Gulf of Mexico.

Most of the 126 people on the rig, Deepwater Horizon, were believed to have escaped safely after the explosion last night, a coast guard officer, Mike O'Berry, said.

The rig, about 52 miles south-east of Venice on Louisiana's tip, was still burning this morning. It was listing about 70 degrees and threatening to topple into the water.

"It's burning pretty good and there's no estimate on when the fire will be put out," O'Berry said.

Seven workers were reported critically injured and two taken to a trauma centre in Alabama, another coastguard officer, Sue Kerver said.

O'Berry said many workers who escaped the rig were being brought to land on a workboat while the Gulf of Mexico was searched for signs of lifeboats.

"We're hoping everyone's in a life raft," he said.

Greg Panagos, a spokesman for the rig's owner, Transocean Ltd, said it was drilling but not in production.

The rig was under contract to BP Plc, whose spokesman, Darren Beaubo, said all BP personnel were safe, though he did not know how many BP workers had been on the rig.

Panagos said it was still too early to tell the cause. "Our focus right now is on taking care of the people."

O'Berry said coastguard environmental teams were on standby to assess any environmental damage once the fire was out.

The Deepwater Horizon rig, built in 2001, is 120 metres long and 78 metres wide. The site known as the Macondo prospect, is in 1,500 metres of water.

The rig is designed to operate in water depths up to 2,500 metres and has a maximum drill depth of about 5.5 miles. It can accommodate a crew of up to 130.

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              Rules and Instructions for health and safety

Safety alert: Working over water - Lloyd's Register's Golden Rules and Instructions for health and safety Applicabilty: Owners, operators, shipyard managers and site controllers

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