Hunt for oilmen after rig blast

THE US Coast Guard was last night searching by sea and air for 11 workers missing since an oil drilling platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.

The remaining structure has continued to burn more than a day after it sent a fireball into the night sky.

Seventeen people were injured in the blast on Tuesday night aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The Coast Guard held out hope the missing workers escaped in one of the platform's covered lifeboats.

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About 100 workers made it to a supply boat after the blast.

Early yesterday, they arrived in Port Fourchon where they were checked by doctors. Five or six families welcomed them to the coastal town.

Authorities could not say when the flames might die out on the rig, according the website of rig owner Transocean.

Fireboats are continuing to shoot streams of water at the blaze.

Adrian Rose, vice president of Transocean, said the explosion appeared to be a blowout, in which natural gas or oil forces its way up a well pipe and smashes the equipment. But precisely what went wrong was under investigation.

A total of 126 workers were aboard the rig when it blew up. Of those taken to hospital, four were said to be in critical condition. Others suffered burns, broken legs and smoke inhalation.