Search called off for missing workers after US oil blast

The US Coast Guard has called off a search for 11 workers who went missing and are now presumed dead after a blast tore through an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico earlier in the week.
Crews were toiling to clean up the mess left by the rig, which finally sank Thursday after an apparent blowout caused an explosion and fire. But officials said no oil was leaking from the collapsed structure, easing fears of an environmental disaster.
Coast Guard Eighth District commander Rear Admiral Mary Landry said the missing workers likely never made it off the drilling platform during the explosion and raging fire late Tuesday.
Coast Guard helicopters, planes and boats frantically searched a large area around the platform site off the southern US coast for three days, but found no sign of those missing.
The other 115 workers onboard the Deepwater Horizon semi-submersible rig at the time of the explosion made it to safety, although 17 were airlifted to hospital after suffering injuries.
Only two remained in hospital, with the most seriously injured worker due to be released next week, Landry said.
The Coast Guard warned the disaster had the potential to become “a major oil spill.”
But it remained unclear just how much oil had spilled from the rig, owned by Transocean Ltd. and under contract to British oil giant BP. Investigations into the exact cause of the accident are ongoing.
Company officials did not say Friday how they proposed to plug the well. “Essentially, they’re trying to put a cork in a bottle of champagne,” said Richard Metcalf, a spokesperson for the pro-industry Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2010