A harrowing search for 29 missing oil workers continues in Azerbaijan after a fire blazed through SOCAR’s offshore oil platform on Friday (December 4). President Ilham Aliyev declared Sunday a day of national mourning. The fire was still seen raging on Sunday as efforts to put it out were hampered by severe weather conditions.
“Flags will be at half-mast in Azerbaijan as well as its diplomatic missions in other countries,” Aliyev said. “Entertainment events and television concert programs have been cancelled.”
The Azerbaijani state energy company confirmed one death. Kocherli Abbasov of SOCAR confirmed the death of an employee named Ramiz Hasanov. Thirty-two people were rescued. Of them, 20 were taken to Neftchilar Hospital for treatment. One of the survivors, who preferred not to be named, told Meydan TV that another colleague named Ayyud Aliyev had also perished.
At 5:40 pm on Friday, a heavy storm and waves of more than eight meters swept through an underwater gas pipeline on the Guneshli 10 oil platform. An oil rig on the platform caught fire and was severely damaged, according to SOCAR. The Guneshli platform immediately lost electricity. According to multiple reports, oil workers boarded two lifeboats.
A hook holding one of the boats broke loose, causing the boat to fall into the sea. The boat carried 34 people. A nearby ship sent to pull the lifeboats to shore was able to rescue three workers from the vessel. Two were confirmed dead, and 29 are missing. The workers in the other lifeboat were rescued on Saturday.
“The biggest tragedy in SOCAR’s history”
told a press briefing that chances to rescue the missing ones were slim. Another SOCAR vice-president Khalig Mamedov
the incident as “the biggest tragedy in SOCAR’s history.”
reported that about 60 percent of SOCAR’s oil production passes through the Guneshli 10 platform, meaning the state company’s output will be temporarily hit. According to
, the platform went into operation in 1984, and services 24 oil wells and four gas wells, producing 920 tons of oil and 1 million cubic meters of gas per day.
Amid reports that safety regulations may have been compromised, the General Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal case into possible violations of fire safety rules. The Azerbaijani authorities formed a probe group comprising representatives of the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Interior, National Security and Emergency Situations ministries.
This is the not the first deadly incident on a SOCAR-operated platform. Last year, 14 workers were killed on SOCAR platforms, and five were killed in 2013.