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viernes, 3 de septiembre de 2010

Oil Slick Seen From Burning Rig in Gulf of Mexico

* A mile-long oil slick was seen spreading from the platform.
* The blast comes more than four months after the BP explosion in the Gulf.
* The explosion dumped 13 people in the water, one of whom was injured.

A mile-long slick was spreading from an oil platform ablaze in the Gulf of Mexico Thursday, the Coast Guard said, citing a report from some of the 13 rig workers who jumped into the sea to safety.

The workers told rescue crews that the slick was about 10 feet wide but hoped that no more oil would leak into the sea, Chief Warrant Officer Barry Lane told AFP.

Meanwhile, the rig was still ablaze and the blast raised fresh pollution fears as the region struggles to recover from the largest ever maritime oil spill, caused by a similar explosion a few hundred miles to the east.

An estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil gushed out of a deepwater well ruptured after the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on April 20 some 52 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

The explosion killed 11 workers and it took nearly three months to stem the flow of oil gushing out of the well some 5,000 feet below the surface.

The rig, owned by Texas-based Mariner Energy, was operating in about 340 feet of water, and was not drilling at the time of the explosion, company spokesman Patrick Cassidy said.

There were seven wells producing approximately 1,400 barrels of oil in total in about 12 million cubic feet of gas in total, he said, adding that "the fire appears to have been quite a bit a ways from where the wells are."

Thursday's incident drew immediate condemnation from environmental groups frustrated with lax oversight of the offshore oil and gas industry.

"How many times are we going to gamble with lives, economies and ecosystems?" John Hocevar, Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director, told AFP.

"It's time we learn from our mistakes and go beyond oil."

Helicopters rushed to the scene of the latest blast, some 90 miles south of Vermilion Bay in Louisiana, to fish out workers who apparently jumped into the sea to save themselves.

"All 13 are accounted for and they are all wearing some sort of an immersion suit that protects them from the water," Coast Guard chief petty officer John Edwards told MSNBC.

Nine helicopters had been dispatched to the site, Edwards said, adding the extent of any injuries suffered by the workers was not immediately clear.

"Right now we're focused on search and rescue and then, ultimately, as this thing progresses we're going to be looking into the cause," Edwards added.

Four Coast Guard cutters were also en route to the rig.

"We will continue to gather information as we respond, we obviously have response assets ready for deployment, should we receive reports of pollution in the water," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

Gibbs declined to say whether the president believed inspections of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico was moving fast enough in the wake of the BP disaster.

"Obviously we've had taken some, we took a series of steps after the BP incident," Gibbs said.

"If this situation warrants, we'll certainly update that."

The Coast Guard said in a statement that it received a report from a nearby helicopter pilot at about 10:00 a.m., "stating that 13 people were in the water near an oil platform on fire."

"The 13 people in the water were picked up by the OSV Crystal Clear and taken to another platform," the Coast Guard said.

"Coast Guard helicopters are being utilized to transport the rescued to Terrebonne General Hospital."

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