A dozen people were missing Wednesday after an explosion and fire overnight aboard an offshore rig drilling for oil off the coast of Louisiana, officials said.
The blast occurred late Tuesday on the Deepwater Horizon, a mobile offshore drilling rig some 50 miles southwest of Venice, La., WWL-TV, New Orleans, reports.
Coast Guard helicopters, planes and cutters are searching for the missing workers.
The blaze also injured 15 workers, seven of them critically, the U.S. Coast Guard said. A Coast Guard spokesman said 99 others were evacuated and were en route to Port Fourchon, La., The Houston Chronicle reported.
At mid-morning Wednesday, firefighters were still battling the blaze, which began about 10 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.
The Chronicle said the rig is owned and operated by Houston-based Transocean, the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor and has been leased by BP since 2007.
The cause of the blaze was under investigation.
The Coast Guard said an explosion came before the fire, but Transocean reported a fire but no explosion.
The 15 injured workers have been flown to West Jefferson Hospital in New Orleans and the Mobile Trauma Center in Mobile, Ala. Three have been discharged from West Jefferson, a spokeswoman said.
Palquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said the rig was in danger of tipping over.
“The rig is leaning badly and the Coast Guard commander down here feels like it may go over sometime today,” Nungesser said. “It is still on fire.”
Senior Chief Petty Officer Mile O’Berry of the Coast Guard said at one point the fire on the rig was so intense it hampered rescue efforts.
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