Friday, July 29, 2005

Fire Destroys Drilling Platform, 3 Killed

A major fire today destroyed a big oil platform off Mumbai coast, killing three people. The fire has also disrupted crude production from the country's prime oil field. The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) platform is located 160 km from the coast.
The Coast Guard says it has rescued 330 ONGC employees while a few others are still stranded. The fire has been brought under control and search and rescue operations will continue through the night. According to initial reports, the platform has been completely destroyed in the fire which began at 4.30 pm (IST). "We had a major fire and the platform has been completely destroyed. There is bound to be some loss of life and injuries," Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said. The fire broke out at ONGC's BHN oil platform, which is the main oil processing platform of the Bombay High North field, and is connected to two other platforms. However, there is little information available on casualty figures and possible damage as incessant rains in the area have snapped all communications links. "We had a major accident. We don't have details as of now. We are assessing the damage," said Subir Raha, ONGC Chairman and MD.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that the fire was triggered after two oil rigs collided. Speaking to reporters, Aiyar said the Navy and the Air Force have been deployed for rescue operations. A total of eight Navy and Coast Guard ships have been sent to the accident site to pick up the survivors. In addition, Dornier aircraft has been pressed into operation to drop life rafts near the burning platform. Naval Commando helicopter Sea King, which has just completed a rescue mission in Kalina and Badlapur, has also been diverted with life raft to the accident site. Action has been taken to mobilise medical assistance and evacuation measures as early as possible. Meanwhile, ONGC Chairman said the platform will take several months to return to normal production. The Bombay High field produces 38 per cent of India's just over 33 million tonnes crude oil output and is the home for the country's biggest gas field, Bassein. Following today's fire, the daily production is likely to come down by 80,000 barrels, which is a third of the total production.

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