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Sep 2, 2010 11:34 AM

Platform Explosion South of Vermilion Bay

An offshore petroleum platform exploded and was burning Thursday in the Gulf of Mexico about 80 miles south of Vermilion Bay.

The Coast Guard says no one was killed in the explosion, which was reported by a commercial helicopter flying over the site around 9 a.m. CDT. All 13 people aboard the rig have been accounted for, with one injury. The extent of the injury was not known.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesau says seven Coast Guard helicopters, two airplanes and three cutters were dispatched to the scene from New Orleans, Houston and Mobile, Ala. She said authorities do not know whether oil is leaking from the site.

Ben-Iesau said all 13 people were rescued from the water by an offshore service vessel, the Crystal Clear, and taken to a nearby platform. All were being flown to the Terrebonne General Medical Center in Houma to be checked over.

The Department of Homeland Security said the platform, known as Vermilion Oil Platform 380, was owned by Mariner Energy of Houston. DHS said it was not producing oil and gas.

A call to the company seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Ben-Iesau says some of those from the rig were spotted in emergency flotation devices.

Mariner Energy focuses on oil and gas exploration and production company focused on the Gulf of Mexico. In April, Apache Corp., another independent petroleum company, announced plans to buy Mariner in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $3.9 billion, including the assumption of about $1.2 billion of Mariner's debt. That deal is pending.

Apache spokesman Bob Dye said the platform is in shallow water.

A company report said the well was drilled in the third quarter of 2008 in 340 feet of water.

Responding to an oil spill in shallow water is much easier than in deepwater, where crews depend on remote-operated vehicles access equipment on the sea floor.

The platform is about 200 miles west of BP's blown out Macondo well. On Friday, BP was expected to begin the process of removing the cap and failed blow-out preventer, another step toward completion of a relief well that would complete the choke of the well. The BP-leased rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20, killing 11 people and setting off a massive oil spill.

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