Thirty oil workers are missing after the rig they were working on in the Caspian Sea was engulfed by a fire, Azerbaijan’s state energy firm SOCAR says.
Another 32 were rescued, the company said on its website, listing the names of 62 workers caught up in the disaster.
The head of Azerbaijan’s Oil Workers’ Rights Protection Committee said 32 workers had died.
The office of president Ilham Aliyev said earlier that one person had died in the blaze that broke out on Friday, with the rescue operation to retrieve the other staff hampered by a violent storm.
The storm had on damaged a gas line on the platform in the deep water Guneshli section of the Azeri-Chiraq-Guneshli offshore oil field, causing the fire, SOCAR said in a statement.
Spectacular footage on Azeri television showed the platform engulfed in flames in the midst of a raging sea.
“Despite bad weather conditions, 32 people could be saved,” Mr Aliyev said. “According to preliminary information, one person died. At this time, rescue operations continue.”
Azerbaijan’s state prosecutor’s office said the person had died on Friday night when the lifeboat he was in with three others was hit by heavy winds.
Staff had taken refuge in lifeboats that had been lowered to 10 metres above the water, prosecutors added.
The oil rig’s stricken gas line had been damaged by winds of up to 144 kilometres an hour, the prosecution service said.
A mainly Muslim country of 9 million wedged between Russia and Iran, Azerbaijan is a key partner in projects to deliver Caspian Sea energy reserves to the West through pipelines to Turkey, bypassing Russia.
Around 60 percent of SOCAR’s oil production passes via the platform where the fire broke out, meaning the company’s output will be temporarily hit.
The bulk of Azerbaijan’s oil is produced elsewhere, however, including on fields operated by British oil major BP.
BP Azerbaijan was not available for comment on whether adverse weather in the Caspian or the fire on SOCAR’s platform had affected its production.
Fourteen workers were killed in accidents on SOCAR’s oil and gas platforms in 2014.
Topics: disasters-and-accidents, oil-and-gas, azerbaijan