RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, March 21 -- Crews on ships surrounding the site where the world's largest offshore oil rig sank worked Wednesday to contain small areas of oil that spilled from the platform.
Platform P-36 operated by Petrobras, the Brazilian state petroleum company, sank Tuesday morning, five days after a series of explosions damaged one of its supports. Ten people were killed in the blast, though just one body was recovered. Another man suffered burns over 98 percent of his body and his condition was listed as extremely serious.
Although gas and oil wells were capped immediately after the explosion, tanks on the rig contained some 400,000 gallons of oil. Company officials said the tanks would likely rupture because of pressure caused by the ocean depths.
The online edition of Diario newspaper in Rio de Janeiro reported Wednesday that Petrobras workers were trying to contain small amounts of oil that had already leaked from the rig. Crews were using containment booms and dispersants to break up the slicks. Much of the petroleum products on the platform was in the form of diesel fuel, leading company officials to predict that it would quickly evaporate. They said there was little chance of any oil reaching the beaches of Brazil, some 75 miles to the west.
According to the newspaper, Andres Correa, Brazil's secretary of the environment, said Petrobras would be fined, but the amount of the penalty could not be determined until the extent of the damage was known. A commission was formed to determine the cause of the accident, but the groups' leader, Mario Rubem, said the investigation would be hampered by the sinking of the platform.
Petrobras officials said the sinking of the platform made it impossible to recover the bodies of the nine victims believed to have been trapped on the rig. However, Diario reported that the wife of one of the victims had obtained a court order demanding that the company recover the bodies at any cost.
More than 150 people were rescued off the rig after the initial explosions, but the platform began a list over the weekend. Workers tried to stabilize the rig by pumping nitrogen into areas of the rig that were about 100feet below the surface. But Tuesday morning, the platform abruptly shifting and crews just cleared the areas when the platform tipped to 90 degrees and sank.
The P-36 oil rig, which was about 400 feet tall, was opened to operation last year and was pumping some 80,000 barrels of oil -- about 6 percent of Brazil's oil output -- a day. The area of the oil-rich Campos Basin where the P-6 was anchored was more than 4,500 feet deep.