Another Rig Explodes Off Louisiana Coast

For the second time this year, an energy rig platform has caught fire and exploded in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast. The Coast Guard says all 13 workers have been accounted for.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

I'm Robert Siegel.

And we begin this hour with another scare in the Gulf of Mexico today. The U.S. Coast Guard responded to an explosion and fire on an offshore oil and gas platform. It's about 100 miles from Louisiana's coast, west of the side of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the three-month spill that followed. The workers have all been accounted for.

NPR's Debbie Elliott has the latest.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT: The Coast Guard says no one was killed in the explosion, reported just after 9 o'clock this morning by a commercial helicopter flying overhead. Petty Officer Matthew Masaschi says when rescue crews got to the burning platform, they found the survivors in the Gulf.

Petty Officer MATTHEW MASASCHI (U.S. Coast Guard): Thirteen people were found in the water, huddled together safely.

ELLIOTT: They were wearing flotation devices known as Gumby suits. An offshore supply boat in the area rescued the workers from the water and took them to another platform nearby. Masaschi says Coast Guard helicopters have since evacuated the crew to a hospital in Houma, Louisiana.

The platform is owned by Mariner Energy of Houston, which said in a statement the cause of the explosion is not known and is under investigation. Initially, the Coast Guard reported a one-mile sheen, but now says boats and aircraft cannot find oil in the water.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal says the company has assured him no oil is leaking into the Gulf.

Governor BOBBY JINDAL (Republican, Louisiana): Mariner Energy has told us that they have shut in the production platform. And again, the Coast Guard and the state are working to independently confirm that is true, that the production is shut in and that therefore, that would be a big step towards containing the situation.

ELLIOTT: Unlike the BP spill, this platform is in shallow water, about 340 feet. Still, the news of an offshore explosion was gripping for those on the Gulf Coast, who have been dealing with BP's gusher all summer.

Wayne Touchet is the president of Vermillion Parish, Louisiana.

Mr. WAYNE TOUCHET (President, Vermillion Parish): Naturally, that's the first thing that comes to mind - another crisis. But the information came in pretty rapidly, and we put all the pieces together. And we understand that it's not going to be another crisis. It's going to be a disaster, especially with the people that had to evacuate. But it's not going to be something that we can't manage. I mean, we deal with this all the time.

ELLIOTT: Touchet says because of the BP oil spill, the parish is more prepared than ever to handle an accident like this.

Debbie Elliott, NPR News.

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