M A I N   N E W S

Oil platform destroyed in Bombay High fire

Mumbai/New Delhi, July 27
Three persons were killed and 45 went missing as a major fire today destroyed a big oil drilling platform of the ONGC in offshore Bombay High, disrupting crude production from the country’s prime oil field.

Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said in New Delhi that three persons were confirmed dead and 45 persons had gone missing when the ONGC platform, located about 160 km from the coast, caught fire at around 4.30 pm.

He said there were 385 persons on the platform when the incident took place.

ONGC officials said 331 persons had been rescued by Coast Guard and Navy ships.

The platform BHN, that produces nearly 17 per cent of the country’s total crude oil output, was a major asset of the 32-billion-dollar Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).

The fire was apparently caused due to collision of a vessel docked nearby in high tide, reports reaching here said.

“We had a major fire and the platform has been completely destroyed. There is bound to be some loss of life and injuries,” Mr Aiyar told a hurriedly called press conference in Delhi earlier in the evening.

The Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force pressed into service eight ships, three aircraft and four helicopters for rescue operations and they rescued 331 persons by dropping life rafts.

The blaze died because the platform collapsed. Search and rescue operations will continue through the night.

ONGC Chairman and Managing Director Subir Raha said the platform, which gathered oil from up to 20 wells and supplied 80,000 barrels per day, would take several months to return to normal production.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is scheduled to make an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas of Mumbai is taking Mr Aiyar along with him for a first-hand assessment of the damage tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Dr Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi have expressed shock and anguish at the "terrible fire". President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, too expressed regrets at the loss of life. He also spoke to the PM to ascertain the facts. — PTI, UNI


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