Disaster piece whereby fire struck an oil rig from corporate greed.
| 750 words
OIL RIG FIRE
The machinery of the oilrig ground on innocently, unaware of what lay in wait. Colored clouds nearly hid the setting sun. Suddenly, a towering fire rose up, eclipsing the dim rays of the sun and illuminating the towering structure. The rig afire. Workers were paralyzed for a moment, like deer caught in the oncoming lights of a car. Then, for most, the survival instinct kicked in and they screamed and ran. Other workers just stared in mute disbelief.
The scene was utter chaos. The fire scorched the sky and began to spread on the metal construct, blocking escape routes from the rig.
Charred, burning men staggered around on the platform. Some workers unhurt by the blaze rolled the victims on the ground to out the fire on their clothes; others tried to smother the flames licking their fellow workers.
Those still trapped screamed and ran, mad with fear. In desperation, some workers braved the high fall and jumped on some trucks parked near the rig. Some landed on their targets, others on the ground; either way, the impact was bone-shattering and in some cases, nearly fatal.
By nightfall, fire trucks and ambulances arrived to tend to the hurt and rescue the trapped. A new problem materialized. The fire engines' ladders and hoses weren't long enough to reach the conflagration. The state was growing dire - there were no fatalities yet, but if a solution weren't found soon, that would change.
By this time, relatives of the workers had arrived, tearfully comforting those who had escaped the blaze or screaming the names of sons, husbands, nephews and cousins still trapped high on the oil rig, saying tearful goodbyes. Night drew on, but the towering fire rebellious, lit up the scene like mid-day and seen for miles.
Eventually, mercifully, rescue came. Hose extensions were found and firemen perched on the trucks' ladders spread foam and water on the inferno and the platform nearest those trapped, bringing the fire to bay. Then a helicopter arrived. Unable to land on the still ablaze rig, it hovered above the trapped workers and, dropping a rescue line, was able to hoist the workers to safety. Amazingly, despite the intensity of the blaze, all souls on the rig were saved.
But the drama had one more after taste. Firefighters fought hours to extinguish the blaze and it was days before the charred skeleton of the rig was cool enough for investigators to find the cause of the explosion.
The rig was due for several electrical upgrades, which were never done. The fire may have been ignited by a spark from faulty wiring, but the true cause was negligence; company executives in their plush offices chose to save on expenses rather than make improvements to save their workers' lives.
Dollars before souls. When the truth came out, heads rolled, bosses were fired and new people were brought in. But in the end, was anything accomplished? All the workers and their families could do is hope their experience falls not by the wayside.