One person was missing and seven others were injured Sunday night — five critically — after an offshore oil rig exploded into a giant fireball near New Orleans, officials said.
The loud blast reverberated along Lake Pontchartrain where maintenance workers were cleaning an oil-rig platform around 7:15 p.m. local time. Kenner, La., officials attributed the explosion to cleaning chemicals igniting.
Roger Fernandez said he heard the blast inside his suburban Kenner home and looked outside to see the oil rig “popping and flaming away.”
“My house actually shook,” Andrew Love told Times-Picayune. “At first I thought it was a sonic boom or something, I had no idea what was happening.”
Search and rescue crews were waiting for seven of the victims that returned to a Kenner boat launch in a boat, about 11 miles from New Orleans. An eighth person is unaccounted for, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto told reporters.
East Jefferson Medical Hospital emergency director Mike Guillot said some of the workers suffered burns and “blast-type injuries.” Five people were rushed to the hospital in critical condition, he said at the press briefing.
Rescue boats surround a rig in Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans.
Clovelly Oil operates the platform in the Jefferson Parish, according to a lawyer for the New Orleans-based energy company.
Officials acknowledged that the oil could be leaking due to the extent of the flames.
East Bank Consolidated Fire Chief David Tibbets said firefighters are trying to stop the oil flow, and would likely need to let it burn off.
The fire is not expected to impact the drinking water in New Orleans, which comes from the Mississippi River, officials said.
With News Wire Services