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14 Dead, 39 Missing in Russian Oil Rig Disaster

By The Maritime Executive 2011-12-19 17:22:17

Distress mounts after an oil rig carrying 67 men capsized off the freezing eastern coast of Russia on Sunday morning and only 14 have been rescued. 

The Kolskaya Russian jack-up rig was being towed off the coast of Sakhalin Island amid a violent storm when a strong wave broke equipment and portholes in the crew’s dining room, and caused the rig to begin sinking immediately.  Of the 67 men, 14 were pulled from the frigid waters immediately after the accident and taken to safety.  14 bodies were confirmed dead after being plucked from the Sea of Okhotsk, and the fate of 39 men remains unknown, though chances of survival are nearly non-existent due to the 1C water temperature in the area. 

Rescue rafts have been spotted off Russia’s east coast, according to the rig’s owner Arktikmorneftegazrazvedka, but the government cannot confirm whether or not there were survivors among them. 

The Emergencies Ministry of Russia said that four vessels and two aircrafts are searching the area for the 39 missing men in the icy sea. 

One of the survivors from the Kolskaya, Sergi Grauman, said that the portholes were smashed in a second, and that the crew all scrambled to the deck, adding that it all “felt like a movie.”

President Dmitry Medvedev is ordering investigators to establish why the Kolskaya was being transported in such dangerous conditions.  Spokesman for the Russian federal Investigative Committee said in a statement on their website, "The investigation is mainly looking at the following version of events: that there was a violation of safety protocol while the drilling rig was being towed; and that the weather conditions were not taken into account when it was under tow as there was a powerful storm near the vessels.”

Russia produces most of its oil onshore and until the Kolskaya disaster has not had any large-scale oil platform accidents in years.

PHOTO: The Kolskaya aboard a heavy lift ship