Up to 12 missing in Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion

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Rescuers were searching Wednesday in the Gulf of Mexico for 11 or 12 workers who went missing in an overnight oil rig explosion.

Oil drilling company Transocean Ltd said the fire and explosion on board its Deepwater Horizon semi-submersible rig occurred at around 0300 GMT Wednesday, some 41 miles (65 kilometers) off the coast of the US state of Louisiana.

"There were seven critically injured and 11 to 12 people remain missing... The rest of the people have been accounted for," said Lieutenant Sue Kerver, a spokeswoman with the US Coast Guard based in New Orleans, Louisiana, which is leading rescue efforts.

"The cause of the explosion and the cause of the fire are under investigation," Kerver said.

Company officials said there were 126 workers on the rig at the time of the explosion. In addition to the missing workers, there were an undisclosed number of injured.

Transocean said in a statement that the rig was leased to BP Exploration and Production, Inc.

The statement described Transocean as the world's largest offshore drilling contractor, with a fleet of some 140 mobile offshore rigs.

© 2010 AFP

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