A Coast Guard helicopter and rescue plane resumed the search Thursday morning for 11 workers missing after a massive explosion aboard an oil platform off the Louisiana coast.
The rig continued to burn as supply vessels shot water into it to try to control the flames enough to keep it from sinking.
Rescue crews have covered the 1,940-square-mile search area by air 12 times and by boat five times, Petty Officer Casey Baker said Thursday.
The boats continued searching all night. Officials hoped the 11 missing workers might have been able to get to a covered lifeboat with enough supplies to survive for an extended period.
Transocean Ltd. spokesman Guy Cantwell said 111 workers who made it off the Deepwater Horizon safely after Tuesday night’s blast were ashore Thursday and four others were still on a boat that operates an underwater robot. A robot will eventually be used to stop the flow of oil or gas to the rig, cutting off the fire.
Seventeen others hurt in the blast — including four critically injured — were brought ashore Wednesday with burns, broken legs and smoke inhalation.
The rig, owned by Transocean, was under contract to oil giant BP and was doing exploratory drilling about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana.
Officials said environmental damage appeared minimal so far.
Adrian Rose, vice president of Transocean, said the explosion appeared to be a blowout, in which natural gas or oil forces its way up a well pipe and smashes the equipment. But precisely what went wrong was under investigation.
The blast could be one of the nation’s deadliest offshore drilling accidents of the past half-century.
Rose said the Deepwater Horizon crew had drilled the well to its final depth, more than 18,000 feet, and was cementing the steel casing at the time of the explosion.
“They did not have a lot of time to evacuate,” Rose said. “This would have happened very rapidly.”