At least one person is dead and 30 others are missing after the Guneshli 10 production platform in the Azeri Caspian Sea was engulfed in flames late Friday. Strong storms have buffeted the region over the last few days, wreaking havoc on offshore oil workers and, in the case of Friday’s incident, tragedy.
Report: 32 Fatalities
Platform operator SOCAR has so far only confirmed one fatality. However, the head of Azerbaijan’s Oil Workers’ Rights Protection Committee, Mirvari Gakhramanly, said, “32 workers died, while 42 workers were rescued last night.” And Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev declared a national day of morning Sunday following the incident, wherein he referred to “numerous deaths.”
The fire started after a violent storm caused the partial collapse of one of the platform’s facilities, damaging a natural gas pipeline. Winds at the time of the incident were up to 90 mph. The company initially expressed hope that the blaze would be extinguished by the end of Sunday. However, it later said this was expected to occur Monday morning.
SOCAR says that one worker has been killed and 33 rescued. 62 oil workers were on board the platform when the incident occurred.
Search And Rescue Operation Ongoing
Guneshli 10 is located in the deepwater Guneshli portion of the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli (ACG) oilfield, the largest in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea. The platform commenced operation in 1984. It services 24 oil wells and four gas wells. Its production rate is 920 tons of oil and 1 million cubic meters (35 million cubic feet) of gas per day.
Azerbaijan’s state prosecutor’s office said Saturday that the person died Friday night when the lifeboat he was in with three others was buffeted by heavy winds. The platform’s staff had taken refuge in lifeboats that had been lowered to 35ft above the water, prosecutors added.
At a news conference, Khoshbakht Usifzade, SOCAR first vice-president, said, “We continue the search-and-rescue operation…We regard those whom we have not found so far as missing.” He added that rescue teams were also looking for three more workers who had been swept into the sea Friday an another oil platform.
“The Biggest Tragedy In SOCAR’s History”
SOCAR’s other vice president characterized the incident as the “biggest tragedy in SOCAR’s history…Despite all the efforts, regrettably, no one has been found,” Khalig Mamedov told reporters. He said the rescuers had found fragments of a boat and several life vests. He added that one gas well was still in flames.
The Guneshli 10 oil platform ablaze in the Caspian Sea
Search-and-rescue operation involve seven boats and four helicopters of the state border service. The Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company’s ships and four Emergency Ministry helicopters are also assisting in these efforts.
SOCAR’s production will be temporarily be impacted, as approximately 60% of the company’s oil production passes through this platform.
SOCAR said it will reevaluate safety measures on its offshore installations, many of which were constructed during the Soviet era.