Azerbaijan: 1 dead, 30 missing, 33 saved after oil rig fire

By Aida Sultanova, Associated Press

One worker was killed, 30 were missing and 33 were rescued Saturday after a fire swept through a Caspian Sea oil platform.

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — One worker was killed, 30 were missing and 33 were rescued Saturday after a fire swept through a Caspian Sea oil platform owned by Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, the company said.

The missing workers were in a lifeboat that fell into stormy seas, according to a joint statement issued late Saturday by SOCAR, the country's emergency services and the prosecutor general's office. It was unclear if any of the missing workers would be found alive.

The fire on the platform in the offshore Guneshli field broke out Friday evening when an underwater gas pipeline was damaged in a heavy storm. Strong winds and waves up to 10 meters (33 feet) high made rescue operations extremely difficult, the statement said.

The workers evacuated the platform, getting into two lifeboats, which were then lowered to 10 meters above the water, the statement said. Ships were sent to the site to then pull the lifeboats to shore but they were prevented from doing so by the heavy seas.

About 10:45 p.m. Friday, a hook holding one of the lifeboats popped open and the boat fell into the sea, the statement said, adding that a nearby ship was able to rescue three workers from that lifeboat and retrieve the body of one who died. The workers in the other lifeboat were rescued Saturday, it said.

The fire was still burning Saturday night, the statement said.

The state oil company and the government had declined all day to say how many workers were on the platform when the fire started or how many had been missing.

Mirvari Gakhramanly, who heads a non-governmental organization that defends the rights of oil workers, had told The Associated Press earlier Saturday that 32 workers were believed to be missing as a result of an overturned lifeboat.

Update: Azerbaijan: 7 bodies found after oil rig fire, 23 missing

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