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Three Workers Missing After Barge Fire

March 20, 1987

MANCHAC, La. (AP) _ A barge carrying storage tanks filled with crude oil caught fire in a remote Louisiana swamp Thursday, and seven workers were injured and three were reported missing, the Coast Guard said.

One of four tanks exploded as the fire burned out of control for four hours before the Coast Guard extinguished the blaze, said spokesman Lee Bryant.

″The fire’s out,″ Bryant said. ″There were 10 people aboard the barge when the fire started, seven have been rescued, three hospitalized.″

Two Coast Guard helicopters and a surface vessel sent to the scene were moved away from the barge because officials feared the tanks might explode, he said. One of the helicopters had been searching the water for the missing workers.

″One of those four tanks containing petroleum products exploded and that’s what knocked two of the men into the water,″ said Judy Guillory, a spokeswoman for St. John the Baptist Parish.

No evacuations were necessary because the burning barge was in a 91-square- mile lake that sits in the middle of cypress swamps dotted with fishing camps inhabited only by fishermen and trappers.

Jim Pittman, a spokesman for West Jefferson General Hospital, said one worker was in in stable to fair condition with first and second degree burns. The other workers were treated taken to local hospitals.

The identities of the missing men were not immediately known.

Bryant said Coast Guard officers boarded the barge to ensure that the fire would not reignite.

Neither the cause of the fire nor its extent were known because of the remoteness of the area, near the southwest tip of Lake Maurepas.

The barge was believed owned by Stone Petroleum of New Orleans, but an operator for Stone’s answering service said she had not contacted any company officials.

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