An offshore oil platform burns in the Gulf of Mexico, off
the coast of Louisiana, in this image courtesy of KLFY
TV10. REUTERS/KLFY TV10
An oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico and operated by
Houston-based Black Elk Energy burst into flames today, leaving
at least two people missing and badly injuring several others,
US and Louisiana officials said.
The fire has been extinguished, Black Elk spokeswoman Leslie
Hoffman said. She said an emergency response is under way,
but declined further comment, saying the company will issue a
The US Coast Guard said 11 people were airlifted to hospitals
while nine others were evacuated to other nearby energy
facilities. Search and rescue helicopters were scouring the
area, located around 17 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana.
No fatalities have been confirmed but two workers are
missing. The 11 hurt included four who suffered burns and
were in critical condition at Louisiana's West Jefferson
Medical Centre, a hospital spokeswoman said.
When it caught fire, 22 workers were aboard the shallow-water
platform, which was not actively drilling or producing oil
and gas, the Coast Guard said.
An oil sheen is being monitored in waters nearby. The Coast
Guard said there appeared to be little risk of a major oil
spill because production was shut off before the fire, and
Black Elk told authorities that any spill could be as little
as 28 gallons.
The latest potentially deadly offshore incident comes a day
after oil giant BP Plc reached an agreement to pay record
penalties of $4.5 billion for its role in the 2010 Deepwater
Horizon disaster, which spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil
into the Gulf of Mexico and killed 11 workers.
The Black Elk platform sits in 20m of water and its
production apparatus was shut off before the fire. In
contrast, the BP disaster happened during a drilling
operation in waters 1500m.
Federal data and SEC filings show that Black Elk, a minor
producer in the Gulf, has a recent history of close calls,
platform incidents and fines, including a $300,000 federal
penalty it paid in September.
Today's incident could reignite a national debate over safety
standards for offshore drilling. After the Horizon spill, the
government overhauled offshore drilling regulations and
imposed a ban on drilling that lasted for several months.
"BP and the government may have settled criminal matters
yesterday, but today's incident shows that increasing safety
of offshore drilling and for hard-working men and women is
still not a settled matter," said Massachusetts congressman
Ed Markey, the ranking Democrat on the House National
Resources Committee, in a statement.
"This incident raises a number of questions about the nature
and adequacy of safety measures on this offshore rig," Markey
The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
(BSEE) said it was sending safety inspectors to the Black Elk
"They were not actively drilling," said Coast Guard spokesman
Glenn Sanchez. "They were cutting a pipe or doing some type
of maintenance that may have resulted in the explosion and