Five people missing after Oklahoma rig explosion

Article by Helen Tunnicliffe

FIVE people are missing after an oil and gas drilling rig near Quinton in Oklahoma, US, exploded at around 08:45 local time on 22 January.

Video footage from local television news reports shows flames and thick black smoke billowing into the sky, with the drilling derrick lying on the ground. 17 workers are known to have escaped, according to the reports, with one flown to hospital with serious burns. At present it is not known what caused the blast at the well, owned by Red Mountain Operating, which was new. The fire was extinguished by the end of the day.

Chris Morris, the Pittsburgh Country Sherriff told a news conference that numerous emergency agencies in Pittsburgh attended the scene, including nine fire departments, local police, medical helicopters, the Red Cross, and volunteer fire crews. A unified command was set up to manage the situation.

Pittsburgh County emergency management director Kevin Enloe said that fire crews on site were monitoring the situation and that the fire was largely containing itself in the tanks and was not spreading. Adding water would spread contamination around the site. Any extra fires like grass fires, however, were being attended to. Fire crews took the decision to leave the fire to burn itself out. Enloe told reporters that the fire had knocked out the automatic switch on the blowout preventer, and immediate efforts focussed on finding a way to shut off the well manually.

In a statement to local news outlets, the driller Patterson-UTI said that it was deeply saddened and that it was supporting the families of the missing individuals.

Article by Helen Tunnicliffe

Senior reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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