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Mile-long oil sheen seen spreading from site of oil rig explosion

<p>NEW ORLEANS - A mile-long oil sheen spread Thursday from an offshorepetroleum platform burning in the Gulf of Mexico off Lousiana, west ofthe site of BP's massive spill.</p>

NEW ORLEANS - A mile-long oil sheen spread Thursday from an offshore
petroleum platform burning in the Gulf of Mexico off Lousiana, west of
the site of BP's massive spill.


Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill
Coklough said the sheen, about 100 feet wide, was spotted near the
platform owned by Houston-based Mariner Energy Inc.


He said Mariner had deployed three firefighting vessels to the site and one already was in place fighting the blaze.


The
Coast Guard says no one was killed in the explosion and fire, which was
reported by a commercial helicopter flying over the site around 9 a.m.
CDT. All 13 people aboard the rig were rescued as they floated in the nearby water in survival outfits called gumby suits.


The
platform is in about 340 feet of water and about 100 miles south of
Vermilion Bay on the central Louisiana coast. It's location is
considered shallow water, much less than the approximately 5,000 feet
where BP's well spewed oil and gas for three months after an April rig explosion.


All 13 people aboard the rig were found floating in the water, sticking close together, Coast Guard spokesman Chief Petty Officer John Edwards said.


“These
guys had the presence of mind, used their training to get into those
gumby suits before they entered the water. It speaks volumes to safety
training and the importance of it because beyond getting off the rig there's all the hazards of the water such as hypothermia and things of that nature,” Edwards said.


All
were being flown to a hospital in Houma to be checked over. Coast Guard
Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesau said one person was injured, but the platform's
owner, Houston-based Mariner Energy, Inc., said there were no injuries.


“Mariner
has notified and is working with regulatory authorities in response to
this incident. The cause is not known, and an investigation will be
undertaken,” the company said in a statement. It said the platform was
located on Vermilion Block 380, approximately 100 miles off the
Louisiana coast.


The platform is a fixed petroleum platform that
was in production at the time of the fire, according to a homeland
security operational update obtained by The Associated Press.


The
update said the platform was producing about 58,800 gallons of oil and
900,000 cubic feet of gas per day. The platform can store 4,200 gallons
of oil.


Seven Coast Guard helicopters, two airplanes and three
cutters were dispatched to the scene from New Orleans, Houston and
Mobile, Ala., Ben-Iesau said. She said authorities do not know whether
oil was leaking from the site.


White House press secretary
Robert Gibbs said President Barack Obama was in a national security
meeting and did not know whether Obama had been informed of the
explosion.


“We obviously have response assets ready for deployment should we receive reports of pollution in the water,” Gibbs said.


Mariner
Energy focuses on oil and gas exploration and production in the Gulf of
Mexico. In April, Apache Corp., another independent petroleum company,
announced plans to buy Mariner in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $3.9
billion, including the assumption of about $1.2 billion of Mariner's
debt. That deal is pending.


Apache spokesman Bob Dye said the
platform is in shallow water. Responding to any oil spill in shallow
water would be much easier than in deep water, where crews depend on
remote-operated vehicles access equipment on the sea floor. Mariner
said in initial flyover for no hydrocarbon spill.


A company report said the well was drilled in the third quarter of 2008.


The
platform is about 200 miles west of BP's blown-out well. On Friday, BP
was expected to begin the process of removing the cap and failed
blowout preventer, another step toward completion of a relief well that
would put a finals eal on the well. The BP-leased rig
Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20, killing 11 people and setting off
a three-month leak that totalled 206 million gallons of oil .


Associated
Press writers Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans, Chris Kahn in New York
and Eileen Sullivan, Matthew Daly and Gerry Bodlander in Washington
contributed to this report.