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Crew Works to Salvage Sinking Brazilian Oil Rig

March 18, 2001|From Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO — Navy divers, engineers and U.S. consultants raced to salvage a crippled offshore oil rig Saturday despite a warning that the huge platform could sink in less than two days.

The 30 specialists entered the partly submerged Brazilian rig, one of the world's largest, for the first time since explosions and fire Thursday forced its evacuation, state oil giant Petrobras said.

Environmentalists are concerned that the approximately 400,000 gallons of crude oil and diesel fuel aboard the rig could spill into the sea if it sinks. Petrobras has said that no oil has spilled yet.

At least two workers were killed in the disaster, and eight others were missing and presumed dead. One body was recovered from the rig Saturday and flown by helicopter to a morgue in Rio de Janeiro for identification, Petrobras said.

The three explosions damaged a pillar supporting the rig, about 80 miles off Brazil's Atlantic coast. The 40-story rig was the largest producer in the rich Campos Basin, 120 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro, which accounts for about three-fourths of Brazil's domestic oil production.

Listing at a 30-degree angle, the rig began sinking about a foot every hour, Petrobras said. Chief Executive Henri Philippe Reichstul warned Friday that it could sink within 48 to 72 hours.

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