May 14, 2010 in Nation/World

Platform sinks off Venezuela coastline

Fabiola Sanchez Associated Press
 

CARACAS, Venezuela – A natural-gas platform sank off Venezuela on Thursday after workers escaped in lifeboats and the last few leaped into the Caribbean Sea. The oil minister said there was no threat to the environment and all 95 workers were safely evacuated.

Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told state television that workers disconnected a tube leading from the gas fields to the Aban Pearl platform, preventing any leak or harm to marine life. He said alarms went off three hours before the sinking, giving the crew time to evacuate.

President Hugo Chavez announced the sinking on Twitter, saying: “To my sorrow, I inform you that the Aban Pearl gas platform sank moments ago. The good news is that 95 workers are safe.”

The rig was operating in waters about 525 feet deep off eastern Sucre state. Ramirez said there was a problem with the flotation systems of the semisubmergible platform that led to a huge water leak in one area.

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