One person remains missing after an oil platform on Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana, exploded Sunday night, officials said
Seven other crew members on the rig were rescued and rushed to local hospitals. Two of them have been discharged, said Mike Guillot, director of East Jefferson Emergency Medical Services.
US Coast Guard Petty Officer Lexie Preston said the agency has launched a helicopter to assist in the search for the missing man.
The fire on the rig continued to burn overnight. Authorities say the flame is burning at a very low pressure and could continue to burn for several hours. A spokesman for the Clovelly Oil company, which owns the rig, told CNN that it was both an oil and a natural gas platform.
Nearby residents reported hearing what sounded like a "sonic boom" coming from the lake at 7:19 p.m. local time, at which point the city's fire department was dispatched to investigate, said Ben Zahn, mayor of the city of Kenner.
The platform, which is a storage and transfer structure for oil wells on the lake, was still burning, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto said at a press conference late Sunday.
It was also likely that oil was spilling into Lake Pontchartrain, said Chief Dave Tibbits of the East Bay Consolidated Fire Department.
Officials were trying to find the valve to shut off what they believe is oil leaking into the lake, a broad but shallow estuary just north of New Orleans.
Jefferson Parish's water supply comes from the Mississippi River and no drinking water comes from Lake Pontchartrain, according to Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni.
What caused the blast is unclear, but fire investigators are looking at the possibility of a combination of chemicals that may have ignited on the platform and led to the explosion.
"The good news is that the platform is close to shore and Lake Pontchartrain is shallow and the lake is calm and there are no winds," said Carlton Dufrechou, director of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, at the press conference.