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Seven injured, one missing after oil rig blast on Louisiana lake

Jefferson Parish authorities and others from other parishes respond to an oil rig explosion in Lake Pontchartrain from a staging area near the Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner, La. Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. (Matthew Hinton / Associated Press)
Jefferson Parish authorities and others from other parishes respond to an oil rig explosion in Lake Pontchartrain from a staging area near the Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner, La. Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. (Matthew Hinton / Associated Press)
By Kristine Phillips Washington Post

One person is missing and seven were injured after an explosion at an oil rig in a Louisiana lake just north of North Orleans.

The explosion happened just after 7 p.m. Sunday in Lake Pontchartrain off Kenner, La. Officials are still investigating the cause, though they said cleaning chemicals ignited on the surface of the oil rig platform.

The offshore platform, located in an unincorporated part of Jefferson Parrish and used to transfer oil from wells in the area, was still burning as of about 11 p.m. Fire crews were working to stop any flow of oil into the rig and let the structure burn off and cool, East Bank Consolidated Fire Department Chief Dave Tibbots told reporters at a news conference Sunday night. The fire was under control by Monday morning, he said.

No deaths have been reported. Five of those injured suffered “blast-type injuries and burns” and were in critical condition Sunday night, Mike Guillot, director of East Jefferson Emergency Medical Services, told reporters. The other two were in stable condition, he said. By Monday morning, three remains in the hospital, with one still in the intensive care unit. The other four have been discharged.

Officials acknowledged that oil may have leaked into Lake Pontchartrain, but Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni told reporters that residents’ drinking water comes from the Mississippi River, which was untouched by the explosion.

The rig is owned by Clovelly Oil, Taylor Darden, a lawyer for the company, told the Times-Picayune.

Resident Roger Fernandez, who said he lives just two blocks from the lake, ran out of his home after the blast “shook me out of my couch.”

A Facebook Live video he shared at about 8:30 p.m. shows a massive fire amid a sea of black.

Oil rig explosion in North Kenner

Posted by Roger Fernandez on Sunday, October 15, 2017

“If you heard a big explosion in North Kenner, there’s an oil rig … that blew up. It’s still popping and flaming away … I’m just hoping there’s no one on that oil rig,” Fernandez can be heard saying in the video.

Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn said there’s no indication that the explosion has or will damage nearby houses. He said the blast startled residents, and some reported hearing pebbles raining on their homes.

“My house actually shook,” resident Andrew Love told the Times Picayune. “At first I thought it was a sonic boom or something. I had no idea what was happening.”

The search for the missing man, who has not been identified, continued throughout the night, officials said.

The U.S. Coast Guard planned to use a helicopter Monday to help with the search and to look for any sign of pollution on the lake, Petty Officer Lexie Preston said, according to the Associated Press.

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