Severe winds and seas caused three separate offshore platform accidents in the Caspian Sea Friday.
The worst, a fire at Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR’s Platform No. 10 on the Gunashli oil field, has claimed the lives of at least 32 people, according to reports from an independent association of Azeri oil and gas workers.
SOCAR declined repeated requests for confirmation of the fatalities. The company had reported only one casualty as of December 5.
Initial reports of the response differ in detail, but the magnitude of the incident is clear. SOCAR initially reported that all staff had abandoned the platform and were aboard lifeboats, and that recovery of personnel from the boats was impossible at first due to the severity of the weather. Over the following hours it reported recoveries of groups of survivors; its most recent update as of Saturday suggested that a total of some 33 people were saved.
Separately, media outlet Oil and Gas People reported that 42 of the 63 on the platform were rescued from lifeboats; an individual who claimed to be a SOCAR worker told a reporter that some 84 people had been on the platform.
Video shows response vessels on scene in rough seas.
The fire may have been caused by a damaged gas riser, and initial reports suggest that weather was a factor.
The Azerbaijani government has announced a commission to coordinate rescue efforts and head an investigation into the cause of the accident. The committee will be headed by Prime Minister Artur Rasizade.
Additionally, three workers are missing after an accident at another SOCAR offshore oil platform approximately 30 kilometers away. SOCAR said a small cabin, where workers were living, was washed into the sea from the platform during a heavy storm. The area reportedly experienced waves over eight meters high.
Six BP platforms are in the vicinity of the fire, but there are no reports of them being affected. However, in a third incident, Oil and Gas People reports that a flotel connected to the BP Chirag platform, which is currently undergoing a shutdown, has moved away from the platform and is reported to have lost at least three of its anchors.The flotel, the Gurban Abasov, is a converted crane barge; it is believed that those on board were evacuated prior to the storm hitting the area.
Four workers were killed and one went missing after a fire broke out one of SOCAR's platforms in the Caspian Sea in October 2014; overall, fourteen died on the company’s offshore rigs that year.