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Natural gas rig explodes, burns in Gulf of Mexico

By Joe Sutton and Dave Alsup, CNN

(CNN) — A natural gas platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico late Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.

The rig, leased by Houston-based Walter Oil & Gas Corp. , was burning about 60 miles southwest of Grand Isle, Louisiana, early Wednesday, according to Petty Officer Carlos Vega. A Coast Guard vessel witnessed the blast.

Forty-four workers were evacuated from the rig on Tuesday after a blowout occurred, officials said.

Natural gas was leaking, but no oil was being released, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said.

Crew members aboard the Hercules 265 were preparing the well for production when they hit an unexpected pocket of gas.

No injuries were reported.

While gas is flowing from the well, “no oil is being released,” according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

A light sheen about a half-mile wide was spotted by environmental inspectors, but was “dissipating almost immediately,” the safety bureau said.

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