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Fire destroys oil platform off western Indian coast, 5 dead
Updated: 2005-07-28 10:23

Rescuers searched Thursday for about 45 workers missing after a fire destroyed an oil platform in India's biggest oil field, killing at least five people.

A supply vessel and an oil rig in the region also were destroyed, Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar told AP reporters.

Navy and coast guard ships evacuated at least 335 people from the platform, located 160 kilometers (100 miles) off Bombay, before the fire was brought under control, Petroleum Ministry spokesman R.C. Joshi said.

Joshi said at least four people died and 45 were missing, but the Press Trust of India news agency later put the death toll at five, saying another body had been recovered from the Arabian Sea.

Reports suggested some people left the platform on lifeboats and others were able to cross a bridge connected to another rig, Aiyar said.

Aiyar said the cause of fire had not been determined. Unconfirmed media reports said the fire started after a rig collided with the oil platform.

Eight navy and coast guard ships carried out the rescue work, said Capt. Abhay Lambhate, a navy spokesman. Helicopters also were trying to evacuate people.

"We are trying to make arrangements to try to bring in those with burns, fractures and other injuries and medical teams are being deployed," the minister said.

"Our first priority is to save lives and second, to control environmental pollution," Aiyar said.

He also said the loss of crude oil production was expected to be "considerable." "It will run to several tens of thousands of barrels," he said.

The accident comes at a time when the worst monsoon rains on record have paralyzed life in Bombay.

The sprawling Bombay High offshore drilling region can produce as much as 14 million tons of oil per year. Nearly 650 oil and natural gas wells are operated there by the state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Of these, nearly 80 are exclusive gas wells.

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