Firefighters continue to battle a burning oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico which broke out Monday night. News sources say the rig has partially collapsed because of a ruptured natural gas well.
The 44 workers on the rig were evacuated into two lifeboats and no injuries have been reported.
Along with fire containment, the focus now is on the potential environmental impact of the incident. Experts say that because natural gas is not likely to cause serious pollution, the fire does not have the potential to be as serious as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 people and polluted the ocean with millions of gallons of oil.
After surveying the fire from the air, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a statement that a "very light sheen that dissipates quickly" was seen in the ocean near the rig.
The rig is owned by Hercules Offshore, which is leasing it to Houston-based Walter Oil & Gas Corp.
A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said a relief well may be dug to redirect the gas.
Walter Oil & Gas Corp. issued a statement that it has hired “an outside environmental expert” to keep track of currents, wave height and wind direction in order to monitor a potential environmental spill.
If a relief well is needed, the company said it will dispatch a unit to execute its drilling.
Environmentalists say the accident shows the need for strong oversight of offshore operations.
"We won't have the oil like we did in 2010, but still this is something we need to watch closely," said Darryl Maleck-Wiley of the Sierra Club. "Once again this is highlighting the dangerous nature of oil and gas operations in the Gulf and that we need aggressive inspection programs of these operations."