A massive explosion on an offshore oil rig in the southern Gulf of Mexico killed four workers and injured at least 16 others Wednesday morning, Mexico’s state-run Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos) oil producer confirmed.
More than 300 workers were evacuated from the Abkatun Permanente platform after a fire broke out Tuesday night. The platform sits in the oil-rich Bay of Campeche a few miles off the coast of Ciudad del Carmen near the western shores of the Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Local rescue workers said that as many as 45 workers may have been injured.
The fire broke out in a dewatering and pumping section of the giant rig and quickly spread, culminating in a blast that forced several workers to jump into the Bay of Campeche. There is no word yet on the cause of death for the four confirmed fatalities, but Pemex has said that a contractor for the Mexican oil services company, Cotemar, was among those killed.
Wednedsay’s Mexico oil rig explosion adds another giant blotch to Pemex’s already tarnished safety record. In the last three years, 60 workers were killed in fires in Pemex facilities, not including those who died in this week’s Abkatun explosion.
In 2013, an explosion at the Pemex headquarters in Mexico City killed 37 people and injured more than 120 others. In 2012, a blast at another Pemex facility near the town of Reynosa, Mexico, killed 26 workers and injured 35 others.
So far there are no indications the latest Pemex blast could result in an oil spill like BP’s Deepwater Horizon blast created nearly five years ago, flooding much of the Gulf with Louisiana crude oil.
Before the BP oil spill, which released about 4.9 million barrels (206 million gallons) of oil into the Gulf, the award for the largest known oil spill went to the 1979 Ixtoc I well blowout, also in the Bay of Campeche where Wednesday’s blast occurred. That oil disaster contaminated the Gulf with at least 3 million barrels oil and permanently altered life in Ciudad del Carmen.