Fri, Jul 29, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Massive fire in India's largest oil field kills over 10

AP , MUMBAI, INDIA

The death toll rose to 10 with several still missing yesterday from a massive fire on an oil platform in India's biggest oil field, with the government saying it would take a month to recover most of the lost production.

Ships and helicopters rescued more than 350 survivors.

The fire on the platform, 160km off the financial hub of Mumbai, was brought under control late Wednesday after a dramatic midsea rescue and firefighting mission in rough waters.

"Though the loss of the platform would immediately impact 110,000 barrels per day of crude production, it is expected that 70 percent of this production would be restored over the next four weeks," federal Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar told the parliament in New Delhi.

A supply vessel and an oil rig in the region also were destroyed, Aiyar told reporters.

"We have managed to rescue 352 people," senior navy officer Vice Admiral Madanjeet Singh said.

There are "10 dead and several missing," Singh said. "Six people are trapped in a support vessel and efforts continue to rescue them."

In the parliament, Aiyar conveyed "the nation's grateful thanks to the navy and the coast guard who have mounted a remarkably rapid and extremely successful search and rescue operation."

Navy ships and helicopters carried the survivors and bodies of the dead oil workers to Mumbai yesterday.

Some survivors were being treated for burns.

Eight of the navy ships involved in extinguishing the fire also assisted in the rescue operations, said Commander Abhay Lambhate, a navy spokesman.

Reports indicated some people left the platform on lifeboats and others were able to cross a bridge connected to another rig, Aiyar said.

Lambhate said the cause of the fire had not been determined. Unconfirmed media reports said it started after a rig collided with the platform.

"Our first priority is to save lives and second, to control environmental pollution," Aiyar said.

The sprawling Mumbai High offshore drilling region can produce as much as 13 million tonnes of oil per year.

Nearly 650 oil and natural gas wells are operated there by the state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp.

Of these, nearly 80 are exclusive gas wells.

The accident comes during the worst monsoon rains in the country's history, which left more than 200 dead in India's financial capital Mumbai and the surrounding state.

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