Two missing after US rig blast





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SOUNDBITE 1 Edward Cubanski (man), Captain, US Coast Guard (English, 14 sec):

"Right now, 11 people have been medevacted to local area hospitals, with 9 people evacuated to offshore supply vessels. Two people remain missing and our focus right now is searching for those two people that are missing."

SOUNDBITE 2 John Hoffman (man), CEO Black Elk Energy (English, 19 sec):

"And what actually happened, there was a line that connects to the oil tanks. The procedure called for cold cutting this line and early reports are they used a torch which created an ignition source and the vapors in the tanks, which caused the explosion."

- shot of Black Elk Energy sign




Two missing after US rig blast, but no oil spill

by Mira Oberman

ATTENTION - UPDATES toll, adds details ///

CHICAGO, Nov 16, 2012 (AFP) - An explosion and fire on an oil platform off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico injured 11 people and left two more missing but did not cause a major spill, the Coast Guard said Friday.

The incident comes a day after British energy giant BP reached a deal with the US government to settle criminal charges over the devastating 2010 oil spill that began with an explosion on an offshore rig.

"We don't foresee any major environmental impact from this," Coast Guard spokesman Ensign Glenn Sanchez told AFP. "This was a non-functioning rig. It's not like they were pumping oil."

While a thin oil slick was seen floating in the waters near the rig, it was likely from small amounts of oil stored on the platform. The blaze began during maintenance work when the crew was cutting through a pipe.

It was soon extinguished and the rig appears to be "structurally sound," incident commander Ed Cubanski said at a news conference.

Earlier reports that two workers were killed have not been confirmed and the Coast Guard continues to search for the two missing workers, Cubanski said.

The Coast Guard could not provide details on the seriousness of the injuries but local media reported that four of the workers were in critical condition with serious burns.

US networks showed dramatic images of thick black smoke billowing up from the platform.

There were 22 people on board when the explosion rocked the rig operated by Houston-based Black Elk Energy shortly before 9 am (1500 GMT), Sanchez said.

Black Elk Energy was not immediately available to comment but posted a message on its website saying "our thoughts and prayers are with those who are impacted."

BP agreed Thursday to pay a record $4.5 billion in US fines for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and pleaded guilty to 14 counts including felony manslaughter in the deaths of 11 workers.

The deadly blast aboard the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig unleashed the biggest marine oil spill in the industry's history and the worst environmental disaster to strike the United States.

It took 87 days to cap BP's runaway Macondo well, 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) below the water surface as it spewed some 4.9 million barrels (206 million gallons) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and blackened beaches in five states.

The disaster led to major regulatory reforms, but critics say the offshore oil industry has not worked hard enough to improve its safety record.