Chances dwindled Sunday brought back alive 29 missing workers of an oil platform in the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, destroyed by fire because of a storm, the authorities reports of “many dead”.
Two days after the start of the incident, 33 workers were rescued and the body of one of them was found. But the authorities have already warned that the death toll was about to rise, which could make the disaster one of the worst affecting the oil industry of the past 40 years.
The president of this former Soviet republic in the Caucasus, Ilham Aliyev, reported in a statement of “many dead” and declared Sunday a national day of mourning.
The flags were placed at half mast and canceled entertainment programs.
A storm damaged a gas line Friday on platform number 10 of the section of the Gunashli deepwater hydrocarbon field Azeri-Chiraq-Guneshli, operated in the south of the Caspian Sea by the Azerbaijani state company Socar.
The accident caused a massive fire, aerial images showing flames of dozens of meters high.
Rescue workers managed to evacuate 33 employees of the platform that had taken refuge in lifeboats suspended ten meters above the level of the sea.
But a canoe came off, falling into the rough sea, and has since not been found. According to the company Socar, the occupants were wearing life jackets and some were recovered near the platform.
The Ministry of Emergency Situations, in a joint statement with Socar Sunday confirmed the death of a person.
Eleven helicopters mobilized
“We are looking for 29 people,” said Sunday the vice president of the company, Khoshabkht Yusifadé, at a press conference. “We do not know if they are alive or dead, we can not pronounce them dead as we have not found,” he insisted.
Eleven helicopters were engaged in research to locate the lifeboat could have drifted out of the Azerbaijani waters. According to the SOCAR, was seen for the last time from the air at 50 km of the platform and the government has asked neighboring countries, Kazakhstan, Russia, Iran and Turkmenistan, their help to find the bodies.
The fire was still raging Sunday but said Socar extinguish hope by the end of the day.
The Prosecutor General’s Office opened an investigation into Saturday uncover any “breaches of fire safety rules.”
The Guneshli deposit was discovered in 1981 in the south of the Caspian Sea, 90 kilometers east of the capital Baku. Production began in April 2008.
Several fatal accidents have occurred in recent years on offshore oil rigs. The most important took place in Russia, where the wreck of a platform made 53 deaths in 2011 in the Far East, the United States, with the explosion of the BP Deepwater Horizon platform (11 deaths) in the Gulf Mexico in 2010, causing the worst oil spill in history.
The worst disaster in the last 40 years was in July 1988 when a fire on the Piper Alpha platform in the North Sea, probably caused by a gas leak, said 167 dead.