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Armand Hammer 'grieved' by oil rig tragedy

ABERDEEN, Scotland -- A 'shocked and grieved' Armand Hammer, the 90-year-old chief of Occidental Petroleum, visited injured survivors of the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster Friday and pledged $1.7 million to a relief fund for victims' families.

'My first consideration is for the families of those who perished and to see that they are looked out for,' he told reporters outside the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where 21 of the injured survivors were undergoing surgery and treatment.

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Occidental Petroleum Corp. officials and Aberdeen police said as of midday Friday, 17 bodies had been recovered, 149 workers were missing and believed to have perished and 64 workers survived.

'I am shocked and grieved,' said Hammer, chairman and chief executive for Occidental that operates the platform 120 miles northeast of Aberdeen.

Hammer arrived Friday from Los Angeles, where his company Thursday issued a statement saying the North Sea oil platform disaster will not have 'signicant impact' on Occidental's financial position 'to merit any change in the company's dividend policy.'

Hammer said of the men on the oil rig at the time of the accident, only 37 were Occidental employees while the others worked for 25 different sub-contractors. He said 31 of the Occidental workers died.

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'We have only six survivors,' he said, adding the families of the 31 dead employees would be given sums equal to five years of the workers' salaries.

He also announced a donation of $1.7 million to a relief fund launched Friday by Aberdeen Mayor Robert Robertson for families of all the victims.

Emerging from the hospital, Hammer said 'I feel very sad' but said that all the injured except one who is in serious condition 'were in good spirits.'

'They are all real heroes,' he said.

Asked by reporters what caused the accident Wednesday night, Hammer said 'We know there was a leak of gas' but he added the last inspection of a suspected gas compression module 'showed no problem so we don't know what happened.'

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