Baku, Azerbaijan, Dec.5
A criminal case has been initiated under the Article 225.2 (violation of fire safety rules resulting in grave consequences) over the accident on a platform at Azerbaijan's Guneshli offshore field, said the joint statement of SOCAR, Ministry of Emergency Situations and Prosecutor General's Office.
The criminal case has been initiated by the Investigation Department for Grave Crimes of the Prosecutor General's Office. An operational investigative group consisting of employees of the Prosecutor General's Office, Ministry of Emergency Situations, Interior Ministry and the Ministry of National Security has been created to carry out the investigation.
Information about the search and rescuing those missing is regularly presented to Azerbaijan's president. More precise information will be made public after the investigation, said the statement.
The fire on the platform is still going on due to the gas remaining in the technological systems and gas pipeline, said the statement. It is supposed that the fire that broke out on the gas pipeline has spread to the oil or gas wells.
Sharp changes in weather conditions with the wind speed reaching 38-40 meters and 8 meters high waves, seriously complicated the oil and gas operations. The wind got stronger in the evening on Dec.4 and the height of waves reached 9-10 meters. Huge waves damaged the gas pipeline which caused a strong fire at 17:40 (UTC/GMT + 4 hours). In order to prevent the consequences of the accident, all oil and gas communication lines running to the platform were blocked and production was suspended at 28 oil and gas wells on the platform.
In accordance with the instructions and the evacuation plan, to escape from the fire and possible explosion, the employees boarded the lifeboats and started descending into the water. The descending was stopped at a height of 10 meters from the water. Four boats, including two boats of the Ministry of Emergency Situations arrived at the scene in a short time and started the operation. Four more boats were involved in the work on extinguishing the fire and rescuing the employees.
However, the docking of boats became impossible due to the strengthening storm and high waves. It didn't allow to descend the lifeboats into the water and haul them by the boats. Moreover, some difficulties emerged with uninterrupted water supply for extinguishing the fire.
At approximately 22:45, due to the strong wind and high waves, the hook of one of the lifeboats opened up and it fell into the sea with the people onboard. Those on the nearby boats managed to board three people and a dead body of one.
Taking into account high risks for evacuating those on the second lifeboat in the darkness and storm, it was decided to start the operation in the daylight. Despite the adverse weather conditions, the operation on evacuation was carried out on Dec.5.