World

Mexican oil rig burns off coast; four dead, 16 injured

AP

A fire erupted Wednesday at an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, killing four workers, injuring 16 and forcing the evacuation of 300, Mexico’s state-owned oil company said.

A survivor of the blaze on the Abkatun Permanente platform inCampeche Sound said workers “jumped into the sea out of desperation and panic.”

“There was nothing you could do but run,” said Roger Arias Sanchez, an employee of Petroleos Mexicanos’ contractor Cotemar who escaped the burning platform in an evacuation boat. He spoke in Ciudad del Carmen in Campeche state, where most of the injured and evacuated workers were taken.

Eight firefighting boats were trying to extinguish the fire, said Pemex. Mexico’s Energy Security Agency said the fire “is being extinguished.”

On its Twitter account Wednesday afternoon, Pemex raised the death toll from one to four. In an earlier statement, it said that two of the 16 injured workers were in serious condition. Many appeared to be Cotemar employees.

Pemex’s media office said it was unclear whether any significant amount of oil had spilled from the shallow-water Abkatun Permanente platform, which largely serves to separate gas, oil and other petroleum products, and pump them to refineries onshore.

The platform lies off the coast of the states of Campeche and Tabasco. It is farther out to sea than the platform involved in the last severe fire in the area, the 2007 fire at the Kab 121 offshore rig.

That accident was caused by high waves that hit the rig, sending a boom crashing into an oil platform’s valve assembly. The accident killed at least 21 workers and the rig spilled crude and natural gas for almost two months.

Mexico’s worst major spill in the Gulf was in June 1979, when an offshore drilling rig in Mexican waters — the Ixtoc I — blew up, releasing 140 million gallons of oil.

It took Pemex and a series of U.S. contractors nearly nine months to cap the well, and a great deal of the oil contaminated Mexican and U.S. waters.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5