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Drilling rig in Gulf of Mexico collapses after fire

July 24, 2013 at 3:38 PM
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GRAND ISLE, La., July 24 (UPI) -- A Gulf of Mexico drilling rig that caught fire has started to collapse, as natural gas leaks from the well it was drilling, federal officials said Wednesday.

The 44 crew members of the rig, 55 miles offshore of Grand Isle, La., were safely evacuated Tuesday morning after the well it was drilling blew out. The natural gas ignited Tuesday night, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Two firefighting vessels were forced to move away from the area, while a third firefighting ship was heading to the area, the federal Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement said in a statement.

A spokesman for Walter Oil & Gas, owner of the well, initially said a blowout preventer -- a device meant to shut off out-of-control oil and gas wells -- failed. The company later said it was still investigating the cause of the blowout.

The failure of a blowout preventer was implicated in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 workers and led to the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, the newspaper noted.

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