Rig evacuation went well says US coast guard

A US Coast Guard official has said the fact that more than 100 people escaped the Gulf of Mexico rig explosion alive is a sign the evacuation effort went fairly well, though oil industry partners are currently needed to help the Government during such a disaster.

Captain James Hanzalik, chief of incident response for the Coast Guard's 8th District, told the joint US Coast Guard-Bureau of Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement investigative panel there was nothing more his agency could have done to prevent the Deepwater Horizon from sinking.

Captain Hanzalik also said the Coast Guard currently relies on oil industry partners for help in rescuing so many people from a deepwater rig. "Typically we don't have the assets to do that," Captain Hanzalik said. He added that he would expect owners and operators of vessels at sea to have their own evacuation plans.” Fighting the fire on the rig is largely the responsibility of the industry because Coast Guard workers are not experts in that area, Captain Hanzalik said."We never exercised our control over the firefighting efforts," he said. "We're not trained firefighters."

The rig ultimately sank, and some 206 million gallons of oil spewed from BP's undersea well following the April 20 rig explosion, according to federal estimates.

The panel, meeting this week at a hotel near New Orleans, is trying to determine the cause of the blast and massive oil spill that followed. Of the 126 people on board the rig, 11 were killed. Besides figuring out a cause, the panel, which is holding its fifth series of hearings, is examining how to improve safety and oversight. At least one more series of hearings is expected before the panel members begin collaborating on their report.

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