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Oil rig explodes off La. Coast


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An explosion rocked an offshore oil drilling platform, sending a column of fire into the sky and touching off a frantic search at sea today for at least 11 reported missing. Most of the 126 workers on the rig Deepwater Horizon were believed to have escaped safely after the explosion about 10 p.m. Tuesday, Coast Guard Senior Chief Pet ty Of f icer Mike O'Berry said. The rig, more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip, was still burning this morning. It was tilting about 70 degrees and threatening to topple into the water. There was no estimate of when the flames might be out. He l i copt e rs and boat s searched the Gulf of Mexico for any sign of the workers who had not been accounted for. "We're hoping everyone's in a life raft," O'Berry said. The Coast Guard said today that seven workers had been critically injured. Later in the day, West Jefferson Hospital in suburban New Orleans said it treated four people, three of whom had been released. The University of South Alabama Medical Center said it was treating one person in its burn unit and evaluating five others. O'Berry said many workers who escaped were being brought to land on a work boat expected to arrive this evening. When the explosion happened, the rig was drilling but was not in production, according to Greg Panagos, spokesman for its owner, Transocean Ltd. In Houston. The rig was under contract to BP PLC. BP spokesman Darren Beaudo said all BP personnel were safe but he didn't know how many BP workers had been on the rig. Panagos said it's still too early to know what caused the explosion. "Our focus right now is on taking care of the people," he said.


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