30 oil rig workers missing since boat capsized in fire off Azerbaijan

dt.common.streams.StreamServerBAKU, Azerbaijan — One worker was killed, 30 were missing and 33 were rescued Saturday after a fire swept through a Caspian Sea oil platform owned by Azerbaijan’s state oil company, SOCAR, the company reported.

The missing workers were in a lifeboat that fell into stormy seas, according to a joint statement issued late Saturday by SOCAR, the country’s emergency services and the prosecutor general’s office.

It was unclear if any of the missing workers would be found alive.

The fire on the platform in the offshore Guneshli field broke out Friday evening when an underwater gas pipeline was damaged in a storm.

Strong winds and waves up to 33 feet tall made rescue operations difficult, the statement said.

The workers evacuated the platform, getting into two lifeboats, which were lowered to about 30 feet above the water, the statement said. Ships were sent to the site to pull the lifeboats to shore, but they were prevented from doing so by the turbulent seas.

About 10:45 p.m. Friday, a hook holding one of the lifeboats popped open, and the boat fell into the sea, the statement said, adding that a nearby ship was able to rescue three workers from that lifeboat and retrieve the body of one. The workers in the other lifeboat were rescued Saturday, it said.

The fire was still burning Saturday night, the statement said.

The state oil company and the government had declined all day to say how many workers were on the platform when the fire started or how many had been missing.

Mirvari Gakhramanly, who heads a nongovernmental organization that defends the rights of oil workers, had told The Associated Press earlier Saturday that 32 workers were believed to be missing because of an overturned lifeboat.

Read more: http://triblive.com/usworld/world/9574898-74/workers-missing-oil#ixzz3talaSuCD
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