Kenner, La. — A Louisiana sheriff says three people remain in critical condition, with two of them in a burn unit after an explosion at an energy plant on a lake near New Orleans.
At a Monday morning news conference, Jefferson Parrish Sheriff Joe Lopinto said a fire on the rig was still burning. Authorities expected the blaze to eventually burn itself out.
Authorities say one person remained missing after the blast and U.S. Coast Guard crews were searching for him.
Lopinto says the search has been complicated by 4 foot to 5-foot (1 meter) seas and stiff winds.
A total of seven people were hurt. Authorities say four of them have been released from hospitals.
There were “a lot of injuries,” many of them serious and more expected from the Sunday evening explosion on Lake Pontchartrain, Kenner Police Department spokesman Sgt. Brian McGregor told The Times-Picayune . No deaths were immediately reported.
“Authorities on the scene report that cleaning chemicals ignited on the surface of the oil rig platform,” the City of Kenner Government posted on its Facebook page Sunday evening.
Reports of fire and smoke being seen from Lake Pontchartrain came into the Emergency Operations center around 7:15 p.m., Jefferson Parish spokesman Antwan Harris said in a news release Sunday night.
Clovelly Oil Co. owns the platform that is in production, said Taylor Darden, a lawyer for the company who is listed as its registered agent with the Louisiana Secretary of State.
The platform, located in Jefferson Parish, is used for the transfer of oil, said Chief David Tibbets of the East Bank Consolidated Fire Department. He said the department’s current goal is to stop oil flow and, if needed, let it burn off safely.
Authorities acknowledged there was a possibility that the fire meant oil could be leaking into the lake, but noted that Jefferson Parish drinking water will remain safe because it is pulled from the Mississippi River.
Social media users reported hearing a loud noise that even rattled some homes.
Andrew Love, 32, told the newspaper he was inside his house about 10 blocks away when he heard the explosion. “My house actually shook,” he said. “At first I thought it was a sonic boom or something, I had no idea what was happening.”
Flames could be seen from the area and the air smelled of burning rubber, according to the newspaper.
The Coast Guard will be conducting a water quality evaluation as well as the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.
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