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Eight Dead, 20 Missing in India Oil Fire

July 28, 2005

BOMBAY, India (AP) _ The death toll from a massive fire on an oil platform in India’s biggest oil field rose to eight Thursday, with 20 people still missing, navy officials said. Ships and helicopters rescued almost 350 survivors.

``Six people are still trapped in a support vessel and efforts are on to rescue them,″ said Commander Abhay Lambhate, a navy spokesman.

Navy ships and helicopters returned to Bombay on Thursday carrying more than 300 survivors.

The fire on the platform, 100 miles off Bombay, was brought under control late Wednesday, officials said.

Lambhate said 348 people had been rescued. Eight people were confirmed dead and 20 others were still missing, he said.

A supply vessel and an oil rig in the region also were destroyed, Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar told reporters.

Reports indicated some people left the platform on lifeboats and others were able to cross a bridge connected to another rig, Aiyar said.

He said the cause of the fire had not been determined. Unconfirmed media reports said it started after a rig collided with the oil platform.

``Our first priority is to save lives and second, to control environmental pollution,″ Aiyar said.

He said the loss of crude oil production was expected to be ``considerable.″

``It will run to several tens of thousands of barrels,″ he said.

The sprawling Bombay High offshore drilling region can produce as much as 14 million tons of oil per year. Nearly 650 oil and natural gas wells are operated there by the state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Of these, nearly 80 are exclusive gas wells.

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