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One dead, 30 missing after Azerbaijan oil platform fire

Published 05/12/2015

The incident happened off the Azerbaijan coast
The incident happened off the Azerbaijan coast

One worker has been killed, 30 were missing and 33 rescued after a fire swept through a Caspian Sea platform owned by Azerbaijan's state oil company Socar.

The missing workers were in a lifeboat that fell into stormy seas, according to 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 on Friday evening when an underwater gas pipeline was damaged in a heavy storm. Strong winds and waves up to 10 metres (33ft) made rescue operations extremely difficult, the statement said.

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

A hook holding one of the lifeboats popped open and the boat fell into the sea, but a nearby ship rescued three workers from that boat and retrieved the body of one who died. The workers in the other lifeboat were rescued on Saturday.

The fire is still burning.

The state oil company and the government declined 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 said earlier that 32 workers were believed to be missing as a result of an overturned lifeboat.

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