CARACAS - A floating system failure sank a gas platform in Venezuela, Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said Thursday.
Aban Pearl sank at 2:30 am (0630 GMT) on Thursday, causing no casualties or apparent environmental damage, Ramirez told state-run Venezolana de Television (VTV).
Operated by Petroleos de Venezuela, Aban Pearl is a gas exploration facility in the Gulf of Paria, more than 400 km northwest to the capital city of Caracas.
Ramirez ruled out possible pollution in the Venezuelan Caribbean waters as the gas is dry and the wells were sealed with a special fluid.
He said the workers disconnected a tube linking the gas fields with the platform, preventing any leak or harm to marine life.
Alarms went off three hours before the collapse, rendering time for escape. While many workers fled from the site on lifeboats, others directly jumped into water before being picked up later by the navy.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez posted the news on his personal page at Twitter, saying 95 workers were safely evacuated.
Ramirez told VTV: "Our men and women are safe. Fortunately the sinking does not take any risk to our environment."
A commission will be formed to investigate the cause of the incident, he said.
The platform was repaired, inspected and certified before operations kicked off and its condition was in "optimal condition," said Ramirez.
He added that the state oil firm is trying to get a replacement platform in two months and the sinking will not affect the country's plan to explore the undersea gas reserves.