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Two Dead, Two Missing After Oil Rig Fire in Gulf

WASHINGTON -- Two workers died and another two were missing Friday in a fire on a oil rig off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico, a US Coast Guard official said.

Four other injured workers were airlifted to a hospital in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, according to a spokesman from Black Elk Energy in Houston quoted by KHOU broadcaster in Houston, Texas.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan Tippetts told CNN that the Coast Guard was sending helicopters to assess the situation, and that several commercial vessels were also at the scene.

Coast Guard vessels specialized in search and rescue were also heading to the site of the explosion.

A Coast Guard spokesman said a command centre had been set up to investigate the incident, KHOU reported.

The rig was located about 40 kilometres south of Grand Isle and 86 kilometres south of New Orleans, off the Louisiana coast.

It was not known if the explosion has caused an oil leak, Tippetts said. According to WWLTV broadcaster in New Orleans, which quoted Coast Guard Captain Peter Gautier, the platform was not actively producing oil and there was little chance for environmental damage.

The accident comes just a day after the oil giant BP sealed a 4.5-billion-dollar deal with the US government over its mishandling of and criminal charges connected to an April 2010 rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, 66 kilometres off the Louisiana Coast.

The blast killed 11 workers and set oil gushing for months into the Gulf, causing the worst environmental disaster in US history.

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