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Search ends after oil rig fire


A fire burns on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico (AP)

A fire burns on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico (AP)

A fire burns on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico (AP)

The US coastguard has called off its search for two workers missing after a fire broke out on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, badly burning four other workers while evoking memories of the deadly 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Chief Petty Officer Bobby Nash said search was ended at about 5.25pm local time on Saturday. Helicopters had been searching for the missing workers from the air, while a cutter searched the sea.

The blaze erupted on Friday as workers were using a torch to cut an oil line on a platform owned by Houston-based Black Elk Energy about 20 miles (40 km) south-east of Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Four workers were severely burned, though Black Elk Energy spokeswoman Leslie Hoffman said their burns were not as extensive as initially feared.

Officials at Baton Rouge General Medical Centre in Louisiana said on Saturday that two men remained in critical condition, while two men remained in serious condition. The four, being treated in a burn unit, are employees of oilfield contractor Grand Isle Shipyard and are from the Philippines.

The hospital said it and Grand Isle Shipyard are trying to reach the men's families in the Philippines. It is unclear whether the missing men worked for a contractor. Grand Isle Shipyard employed 14 of the 22 workers on the platform at the time of the incident, WWL-TV in New Orleans reported.

Meanwhile, officials said no oil was leaking from the charred platform, a relief for Gulf Coast residents still weary two years after the BP oil spill illustrated the risk that offshore drilling poses to the region's ecosystem and economy.

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Friday's fire sent an ominous black plume of smoke into the air reminiscent of the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that transformed the oil industry and life along the US Gulf Coast

James A. Watson, the director of Louisiana's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said in a statement Saturday that his agency had begun "an investigation into the explosion and fire aboard a Black Elk Energy production platform offshore Louisiana".

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those injured and missing and their families," Watson said. "BSEE is committed to determining the direct and indirect causes of the explosion and will take appropriate enforcement action."

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