Oil Rig Explosion: Search on for 11 Missing Off Louisiana Coast

Survivors reunite with families overnight, Coast Guard takes on fire, search.

April 22, 2010, 7:45 AM

April 22, 2010 — -- Survivors of a massive oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico were reunited with family members this morning as the Coast Guard resumed its search by air for 11 workers still missing.

"We have really good weather, which is fortunate in a search and rescue case," Coast Guard spokesperson Lt. Sue Kerver told "Good Morning America." "Calm seas, calm winds, good visibility."

Nearly 100 survivors of Tuesday's explosion -- which sent several workers diving off the 75-foot platform -- arrived in a New Orleans port early this morning, Kerver said. Seventeen others were taken to area hospitals, some with critical injuries.

Overnight two Coast Guard cutters continued the search for the 11 missing, eerily illuminated by the massive fireball on the platform that has yet to be extinguished. The Coast Guard said aircraft were scheduled to resume the search at first light. Already nearly 2,000 square miles have been scoured, the Coast Guard said.

"My heart goes out to them, it really does," said Carol Moss, the wife of one survivor. "I couldn't imagine ... I just hope and pray that they find them."

Firefighting vessels are struggling to contain the fire on top of he rig as plumes of smoke are reportedly reaching 10,000 feet in the air.

"The best way to describe it is a big mushroom cloud, almost like a bomb went off," Coast Guard petty officer Blair Doten said.

The Coast Guard is working with BP, with which the rig is under contract, to shut down the fire's fuel source: the rig's well that can produce 13,000 gallons of raw crude oil an hour.

"Until then, we continue firefighting efforts with the vessels that are on scene," Kerner said, noting that four vessels are currently dousing the rig with water.

Official: 'Blowout' Possible Cause of Explosion

The rig, known as Deepwater Horizon, was finishing work on a new well at the floor of the Gulf when it was rocked by an explosion late Tuesday night. The 115 survivors that have been accounted for said they scrambled from the burning rig -- some piling into lifeboats, others jumping, risking the more than 75-foot dive into the sea.

Owned by Transocean Ltd., the rig is about twice the size of a football field and can drill up to 30,000 feet deep, according to Transocean's website.

Transocean's vice president, Adrian Rose, told the Associated Press the explosion appeared to be a blowout, meaning natural gas or oil forced its way up a well pipe and damaged equipment.

The Coast Guard said it was "preparing in advance" for any effect the explosion could have on the environment in the area.

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