[Updated at 9:36 p.m.] Earl has been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane but is still dangerous, the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 p.m. Thursday forecast.
As of 8 p.m., the center of Earl was about 160 miles (260 kilometers) south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and about 625 miles (1,005 kilometers) south-southwest of Nantucket. It was heading north at about 18 mph (30 kph) with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph (165 kph).
"Even if the center of Earl remains offshore ... hurricane force winds are expected to occur in the Outer Banks overnight tonight," the center said Thursday.
[Updated at 2:14 p.m.] For continuing coverage of the incident involving a production platform on fire in the Gulf read the full story here.
[Updated at 2:08 p.m.] U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Elizabeth Bordelon tells CNN there is a sheen at the site of the production platform that measures approximately 1 mile by 100 feet. This information comes after Gov. Bobby Jindal who said there were reports of a mile-long sheen.
[Updated at 1:03 p.m.] Mariner Energy, owner of the production platform, said in a press release that no hydrocarbon spill has been reported after an initial flyover of the incident.
"Mariner has notified and is working with regulatory authorities in response to this incident," the statement said. "The cause is not known, and an investigation will be undertaken. During the last week of August 2010, production from this facility averaged approximately 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas per day and 1,400 barrels of oil and condensate."
The company also said no injuries have been reported.
[Updated at 12:48 p.m.] David Reed, a paramedic on board a neighboring oil rig located 14 miles from the platform that exploded, told iReport he saw all thirteen workers rescued from the water.
“We were up here in the radio room and all of sudden we saw a whole bunch of smoke coming from the platform," Reed said. "Shortly after all the radios started lighting up like a Christmas tree. They called any helicopters in the area, any boats in the area to respond, they were saying there were people in the water. There were multiple people in the water.”
See Reed's iReport of what he witnessed
WWL: Coast Guard reporting production platform incident
WDSU: Production platform explodes in Gulf
iReport: Did you see the explosion? Share images
[Updated at 12:32 p.m.] White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday that the federal government has "assets ready" to respond to any environmental problems resulting from the explosion of an oil platform off the coast of Louisiana.
Click to watch video
[Updated at 12:31 p.m.] All thirteen people aboard a production platform that exploded in the Gulf are accounted for and safely on a commercial vessel according to initial information, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement.
"We continue to gather information as we respond with full force, and have oil spill response assets ready for immediate deployment should we receive any reports of pollution," the statement said.
[Updated at 11:53 a.m.] U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Colclough tells CNN that 12 people from the production platform are in water immersion suits as they await rescue.
Colclough told CNN there are reports the production platform, which is for both oil and natural gas, is still on fire.
"We don't know what caused the rig to catch on fire," he told CNN, noting the incident is under investigation.
Asked about concerns regarding oil leaks or pollution, Colclough said "there are reports the rig was not actively producing any product, so we don't know if there's any risk of pollution."
Mariner Energy is a leading independent oil and gas exploration and production company in the Gulf of Mexico. About 85 percent of the company's production comes from offshore assets, with a growing share of that coming from deepwater developments.
The explosion comes nearly five months after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded April 20, killing 11 people and causing oil to gush into
the Gulf of Mexico, leading to one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.
[Updated at 11:43 a.m.] U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Colclough tells CNN that all 13 workers involved in the production platform explosion are accounted for, but one person is injured.
Coast Guard Choppers are on the way to the site 80 miles south of Vermilion Bay.
[Posted at 11:33 a.m.] An oil production platform has exploded 80 miles off the coast of Louisiana, with 12 people overboard and one missing, the Coast Guard said Thursday morning.
Rescue attempts are under way for at least 12 people, Coast Guard spokesman John Edwards told CNN. 13 people were on board the production platform total, Edwards said, noting 12 have been accounted for, but one person was missing.
The accident took place 80 miles off the coast of Louisiana on the Vermilion Oil production platform 380, which is owned by Houston-based Mariner Energy.
The Coast Guard has multiple helicopters, an airplane and several Coast Guard cutters en route. It's unknown if there are any injuries.
Drilling has been done in the Gulf for years and years with no accidents, spills, etc. Lousiana supplies a very high percentaget of the US drilled oil and is a HUGE portion of that states economy and employment. It's ludicrious to say stop the off-shore drilling unless, of course, you are related to the royal family of Saudia Arabia and get your gasoline, plastics, etc. from them. I guess purchasing foreign oil for exhorbitant prices from avowed enemies of the US somehow makes sense to you. It doesn't to me.
This time, it had better have been eco-terrorists, and not gross incompetence...
Manticore, your response is silly at best. As others have stated here, if a fireman dies in the line of duty should we simply stop fighting fires? How about a race car driver? There's no NEED for racecar driving, but we all understand that fying around a track with 30 other people at 200mph is inherently dangerous, right? Oil and gas drilling is no different. It's a dangerous job, with thousands of variables that can't be completely controlled by humans. We do our best to do root cause analysis and make the job safer and easier. I work in drilling equipment instrumentation and I know the crazy requirements that are placed on us...Charpy tests, ABS/DNV certification, mag particle inspection, finite element analysis, etc. We don't build this gear lightly, nor do we take it for granted. Safety is #1 in our minds always.
The 'political' implications make the head swirl........
Here is a map that shows its location in the Gulf.
My son maybe on that rig. i HAVEN`T heard a word. They will be plenty of for politics but not today...
I'm amazed at all of the responses that claim oil rigs never exploded until Obama took office. Oil rigs explode all the time. If you are "bemused" by the idea that there were no oil rig explosions previous to Obama, perhaps you are completely ignorant.
Instead of oil rigs exploding during the Bush administration, oil refineries did. At least the explosions are getting further away!
Yeah perfect timing. Now they can cram cap n tax down our throats too. Provide a diversion that polarizes the masses and meet in the dead of night and vote before anyone knows what hit them.. Gee, its Labor Day weekend too, isn't it? Extended weekend, bland news cycle? PERFECT!!
At least we have a plan on how much to charge this time around.
I don't know, seems a bit fishy that this would happen twice. I think it's time to start questioning the people who're on these oil rigs.
Well said Michael. If everyone was only as smart as you. Best words ever!!
When a mine collapses, do we stop mining? When a car flips because of a faulty design, is the entire automobile industry shut down? This is a dangerous job, but one that, unfortunately, is necessary. Oil and petroleum provide so much in terms of gas, electricity, etc. that we are, like it or not, completely dependent upon it. On top of that, there are about 100,000 jobs in the Louisiana that are dependent upon the oil business. So yes, there are many people who are still going to want to keep drilling. And rightfully so.
My husband works on those oil rigs. It's a dangerous job, but anyone who works out there knows the risk. But before anyone jumps to conclusion about whats going on we need more facts!!!! It had to be a small rig if only 13 people were on it, and it looks like they have all survived!!!!!! That is good news people!!! We can't stop drilling based on 2 accidents, and if that was the case we wouldn't have airplanes, trains, cars, or the NASA program to name a few. Get the facts before you freak out.
I wonder how many of the people calling for the drilling to stop, filled their cars up with gas this week...
Something else interesting to think about...
Growth Energy, an industry lobby group, says increasing the percentage of ethanol blended into the U.S. gasoline supply would create 136,000 jobs. But an analysis by the Environmental Working Group found that no more than 27,000 jobs would be created, and each one could cost taxpayers as much as $446,000 per year. Sure, the government can create more green jobs. But at what cost?
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