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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 July 2005, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Ten dead in India oil field fire
ONGC platform ablaze
Many workers jumped off the platform
The number of confirmed deaths in Wednesday's oil platform fire off the western coast of India has risen to 10.

However, the navy says more than 350 workers have been rescued. Some people are still reported trapped or missing.

The platform, in India's most important oil field, was completely destroyed in the fire, which emergency services managed to extinguish late Wednesday.

It is still not clear what caused the fire. Some reports say an oil rig collided with the platform.

Hours in water

"We have managed to rescue 352 people," Vice Admiral Madanjeet Singh told reporters.

He said there were 10 dead and several missing.

"We have picked up people from the sea and there were people who were in the water for more than 12 hours," the vice admiral said. The platform is some 160km (100 miles) off the coast of Mumbai in the Bombay High field.

Officials are still not saying exactly how the fire started.

The BBC's Zubair Ahmed in Mumbai says it is widely believed that the platform burst into flames after it was hit by a mobile rig which is used to drill into the sea bed.

Many of those on board the platform - possibly up to 400 people - jumped into the Arabian Sea.

The rescue operation has been hampered by bad weather.

Rescued oil workers in India

The platform, in the Bombay High field, is run by the state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and produces 100,000 barrels of oil a day.

"Six of the dead are ONGC employees and two are contract workers," an unnamed company official told the Press Trust of India.

"After the fire broke out there was panic on the platform and some employees... jumped into the sea."

Federal Oil Minster Mani Shankar Aiyar told parliament on Thursday that "the loss of production would immediately impact 110,000 barrels per day of crude production".

But he said that 70% of production "would be restored over the next four weeks".

"Our first priority is to save lives and second, to control environmental pollution," Mr Aiyar said.

The Bombay High field is India's biggest oil field, accounting for some 260,000 barrels a day overall.

ONGC's website described the fire as "a major accident".




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