HOUSTON - Fire fueled by a natural gas well blowout about 55 miles off the Louisiana coast burned into the evening Wednesday, as emergency workers assessed how to stem the out-of-control leak and extinguish the blaze that collapsed part of the rig.
News of the Tuesday morning blowout and subsequent fire late that night evoked memories of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 that killed 11 workers and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
This damaged well, however, is over a "small pocket" of natural gas that, if unchecked, would burn for "days, not weeks or months," said David Blackmon, a spokesman for Houston-based Walter Oil & Gas Corp., which contracted the rig.
Authorities said no one was injured and all 44 workers were safely evacuated from the rig before the fire started at late Tuesday morning. The cause of the blowout had not been determined late Wednesday, authorities said.
"There is no immediate danger to humans or wildlife" related to the incident, said staff at the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Plans were underway to move another rig to the site by this afternoon so workers can drill a relief well to stop the leak, BSEE staff said. They, along with the Coast Guard, were the lead agency responding.
"Until that relief well is drilled, it's going to continue burning because it's fueled by the well," BSEE staff said.