Gulf of Mexico Oil Rig Fire Kills 4, Injures 16

April 1, 2015 Updated: April 1, 2015

An explosion and massive fire on a Mexican-owned oil platform on Wednesday killed at least four and forced workers to dive into the Gulf of Mexico to escape the inferno.

In all, the shallow-water oil rig accident left four dead and injured 16 workers on the Abkatun Permanente platform in Campeche Sound, located near the coast of the Mexican states of Campeche and Tabasco, said Mexico’s state-run oil company, Pemex. About 300 workers were also forced to evacuate, and it’s still not clear if the accident caused an oil spill.

Pemex said on its Twitter account that eight firefighting boats were deployed to battle the blaze.

The injured were being treated at a hospital in Campeche.

Two of the injured workers were said to be in critical condition, Pemex stated.

The fire was captured on video and was uploaded online, showing a gigantic blaze and a plume of smoke.

Pemex said it’s not immediately clear what caused the fire.

In recent years, Pemex has suffered a number of accidents. At least 37 people were killed in a blast at the firm’s headquarters in Mexico City in 2013, while another 26 people died at a Pemex natural gas plant in 2012.

The Abkatun Permanente explosion and blaze is further out to sea than the platform involved in the last severe fire in the area—the 2007 fire at the Kab 121 offshore rig. That accident was caused by high waves that hit the rig, sending a boom crashing into an oil platform’s valve assembly. The accident killed at least 21 workers and the rig spilled crude and natural gas for almost two months.

Mexico’s worst spill in the Gulf was in June 1979, when an offshore drilling rig in Mexican waters—the Ixtoc I—blew up, releasing 140 million gallons of oil. It took Pemex and a series of U.S. contractors nearly nine months to cap the well, and a great deal of the oil contaminated Mexican and U.S. waters.

Wednesday’s deadly fire once again highlights the perils of working on an oil rig, which entails long hours and strenuous work, but with high pay. In 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said in a report that between 2003 and 2010, the U.S. “oil and gas extraction industry had a collective fatality rate seven times higher than for all U.S. workers.”

“During 2003–2010, a total of 128 fatalities occurred in activities related to offshore oil and gas operations in the United States, an average of 16 per year. All but one fatality occurred in Gulf of Mexico operations,” the report stated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.