Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic December 19, 2011 - 5:09 am

Oil rig capsizes in freezing waters off Russia’s Far East

Of 67 on board, only 14 known survivors early Monday

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Kolskaya platform, the largest in Russia, at 70 metres long and 80 m wide, was subcontracted to the Russian energy giant Gazprom for a drilling operation when it capsized Dec. 18. (FILE PHOTO)
Kolskaya platform, the largest in Russia, at 70 metres long and 80 m wide, was subcontracted to the Russian energy giant Gazprom for a drilling operation when it capsized Dec. 18. (FILE PHOTO)

About 40 people remain missing after a drilling rig capsized early Dec. 18 in a disaster highlighting the dangers of offshore oil operations in Arctic waters.

The floating oil platform with 67 aboard capsized off the coast of Sakhalin Island in the Far East of Russia in a violent storm, about 200 kilometres from land.

While 14 workers were rescued,  at least 14 died and some 40 others remain missing in the ice-choked, freezing waters.

Owned by Russian offshore exploration firm Arktikmorneftegazrazvedka,the Kolskaya platform, the largest in Russia at 70 metres long and 80 m wide, was subcontracted to the Russian energy giant Gazprom for a drilling operation.

When the storm hit, the rig was being towed to a drilling site.

Survivor Sergei Grauman, told Russian state television that after the platform’s portholes were smashed by a wave, the crew had struggled unsuccessfully to fix them.

“Everyone rushed to the deck,” he told the First Channel station. “It all felt like a movie.”
The crew members waited to be evacuated by helicopter, but the rig capsized and sank before everyone could get to the lifeboats.

On Monday, reports said another lifeboat with another 15 people had been spotted, but it was not clear whether there were any survivors on board.

The workers wore survival suits and lifejackets, but the strong wind continued to hamper rescue efforts, Russia Today said.

The Russian news agency Ria Novosti said the capsized rig would not pose an environmental hazard because there was little fuel on board.

Last week, the National Energy Board of Canada issued a report which said that companies want to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic they must be prepared to cope with any disaster.

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