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Fire Aboard Oil Rig Offshore Louisiana Forces 28 to Evacuate

No injuries were reported after a Gulf of Mexico drilling platform offshore Louisiana caught fire early Friday, forcing the evacuation of 28 people, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) said.

Firefighters battled a blaze on the oil storage platform in Breton Sound Block 21, in Louisiana waters offshore Plaquemines Parish. A fire was reported around 2:50 a.m. CDT by sailors aboard Miss Katherine, an offshore supply vessel, who helped with the evacuation.

"The well was shut in and production has ceased," according to the USCG. A light sheen of oil was seen along a one-mile stretch of water, said Petty Officer Ryan Tippets.

Houston-based Texas Petroleum Investment Co., which owns and operates the platform, acknowledged that 4,000 bbl of oil was being held in storage tanks on the platform, but capacity was not in use when the fire erupted. Only about 100-120 bbl of oil, was on the platform at the time of the incident, well below capacity, said spokesman David Margulies.

The production platform where the fire occurred, he said, "gathers oil and then pumps it through a pipeline so there is little oil stored on site and all wells feeding the platform have been shut down." He said a rented compressor on the rig caught fire; no repairs or maintenance were underway at the time. The platform had been gathering around 2,000 b/d of oil from 50-60 individual wells.

"Our company is working with the Coast Guard and other agencies to address any environmental issues that develop," Margulies said. "All of the workers on the platform were safely evacuated and there were no injuries in this incident."

Texas Petroleum, a privately held explorer, employs more than 200 people for its operations along the Gulf Coast in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The company, founded in 1989, operates more than 2,000 producing wells.

The USCG said an incident command post had been established with company officials, state and local representatives. Several response vessels were at the scene or on their way Friday afternoon, including a crew from the USCG Station in Venice, LA, and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry fixed-wing aircraft crew based at the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, AL.

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