USA: Coast Guard Calls Off Search for Missing Deepwater Horizon Workers

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended a search on Friday for 11 workers missing after an oil rig exploded and sank into the Gulf of Mexico earlier this week.

The 11 workers — who were likely on the deck of the oil rig in the vicinity of the explosion — are presumed dead, the Coast Guard said.

Transocean Ltd’s Deepwater Horizon sank on Thursday after burning since Tuesday following an explosion while finishing a well for BP Plc 42 miles (68 km) off the Louisiana coast.

After a three-day air and sea search covering 5,200 square miles (13,470 square km) of water, “we’ve reached a point where reasonable expectation of survival is past,” Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry said.

The threat of a major oil spill spoiling Louisiana’s fragile coastline eased after officials said the well, about 5,000 feet (1,525 metres) beneath the ocean surface, was not leaking oil. Officials said cleanup crews remained on high alert pending certainty the well is shut, but they do not expect any leaks.

The explosion came almost three weeks after President Barack Obama unveiled plans for a limited expansion of U.S. offshore oil and gas drilling. The explosion did not affect U.S. oil markets.

Obama has no plans to reconsider his proposal and “continues to believe the great majority of that can be done safely, securely and without any harm to the environment,” a White House spokesman said on Friday.

BP deployed an armada of ships and aircraft to contain an oil slick that was 1 mile by 5 miles (1.6 km by 8 km) as of Thursday.

A remotely operated unmanned submarine sent to the ocean floor found no oil leaking from the well and was being kept on station to watch for seeps, Landry said. The rig itself had not been located in the murky ocean waters, she said.

The blast occurred about 10 p.m. CDT on Tuesday (0300 GMT Wednesday) as the rig was capping a discovery well pending production, company officials said. Some 115 of the 126 workers on board at the time of the explosion were rescued.

It was the worst oil rig disaster since 2001, when a rig operated by Petrobras off the Brazilian coast exploded and killed 11 workers. The Piper Alpha rig in the North Sea off Scotland exploded in 1988, killing 167.

Shares of Transocean fell 1.5 percent to $88.94 on the New York Stock Exchange, while shares of BP on the NYSE were off 37 cents to $59.18. Oil markets were not affected because the well was not in production mode.

Source: USCG,April 25, 2010;

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