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1988: Piper Alpha oil rig ablaze

VIDEO : Hopes of finding men alive begin to fade

A fire on a North Sea oil rig is feared to have claimed the lives of most of those on board.

The fire is believed to have started after explosions at about 2230 BST (2130 GMT) on the Piper Alpha drilling platform, 120 miles (193km) off the north-east coast of Scotland.

Helicopters and boats were immediately sent out to rescue the oil workers in an operation co-ordinated by the Aberdeen coastguard.

Pilots reported seeing an "inferno" up to 350ft (107m) high and a platform wrenched apart.

It is thought approximately 225 men were working on the rig owned by Occidental Oil.

Safety inspection

Survivors are being airlifted to the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary - some are said to be seriously injured.

Most of those who have been rescued so far said they survived by sliding down pipes or jumping hundreds of feet into the sea which was covered in burning oil.

The Piper Alpha platform is the largest and oldest platform in the North Sea oilfield.

It was last inspected two weeks ago but last week there was a small fire on the rig.

Since drilling began in the North Sea in the 1970s there have been 300 deaths on Britain's 123 oil installations, often in accidents caused by bad weather.

In Context
A total of 167 people died in the Piper Alpha fire making it the world's worst offshore oil disaster.

Most of the victims suffocated in toxic fumes which developed after a gas leak set off the blasts and sparked the fire.

In November 1990 Lord Cullen's report into the disaster severely criticised safety procedures on the rig owned by Occidental Oil.

Lord Cullen did not blame any individuals but after a civil action over insurance payments in 1997 two workers who died in the disaster were found to have been negligent.

However, that finding has been contested both by relatives of the men concerned and television documentary investigations.


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