Four dead, 16 injured in fiery blast at Mexico oil rig

A screengrab from a video of the Abkatun A-Permanente platform on the Gulf of Mexico's Campeche Sound on fire on April 1, 2015. An explosion and a fire erupted on an offshore oil platform operated by Mexico's Pemex on Wednesday, killing at least four
A screengrab from a video of the Abkatun A-Permanente platform on the Gulf of Mexico's Campeche Sound on fire on April 1, 2015. An explosion and a fire erupted on an offshore oil platform operated by Mexico's Pemex on Wednesday, killing at least four workers, injuring 16 and forcing 300 to be evacuated. -- PHOTO: AFP

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - An explosion and a fire erupted on an offshore oil platform operated by Mexico’s Pemex on Wednesday, killing at least four workers, injuring 16 and forcing 300 to be evacuated.

Eight firefighting vessels were battling the pre-dawn blaze at the Abkatun A-Permanente platform on the Gulf of Mexico’s Campeche Sound, the state-run firm said in a statement.

The blast took place at 3.40am in the dehydration and pump area of the platform, located off the coast of eastern Campeche state, the Asea energy safety agency said in a separate statement.

Some 300 workers were taken to other platforms in the area while the injured were transported to Pemex’s general hospital in Ciudad de Carmen. Two were in serious condition.

Pemex has not indicated whether the accident caused any oil spill.

AFP obtained a video taken from a boat showing huge flames and smoke engulfing much of the platform in the middle of the night.

Mexican media published pictures of firefighting vessels battling the blaze with water cannons as a huge column of smoke went skyward.

“Regrettably, the death of four workers in the accident on the Abkatun A-Permanente platform has been confirmed,” Pemex wrote on its Twitter account, raising an earlier toll of one dead contractor from the Cotemar company.

“The priority in this emergency is to protect the safety of personnel, contain the fire and care for the injured,” the Asea agency said, adding that all the workers were removed from the rig.

Asea said it was its responsibility to analyse the cause of the incident to determine the actions needed to ensure industrial safety.

HISTORY OF ACCIDENTS

The fire is latest incident to hit the state oil firm in recent years.

In January 2013, a gas buildup caused an explosion at the company’s Mexico City headquarters, killing 37 people.

A natural gas plant explosion killed 30 people near the northeastern state of Tamaulipas in September 2012.

President Enrique Pena Nieto pushed through a sweeping energy reform Bill last year that opens the sector to foreign investors in a bid to reverse falling production and modernize aging infrastructure.

Pemex, which provides a third of Mexico’s tax revenue, posted a US$17.7 billion (S$24.1 billion) loss in 2014, hit by falling global oil prices, fuel thefts by gangs and the peso’s drop against the dollar.

The government will hold its first auction in July for shallow-water projects on the Gulf of Mexico.