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18/11/2012: 3 PH Officials Now in Louisiana to Assist Filipinos Involved in Oil Platform Accident

18 November 2012
Updated 1545H EST

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Officials from the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago are now in Louisiana to assist the Filipinos who figured in last Friday’s explosion and fire that hit an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said Deputy Consul General Orontes Castro Jr. of the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago and Welfare Officer Saul de Vries and Assistant Labor Officer Oliver Flores of the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. flew to New Orleans on Sunday afternoon (Monday morning in Manila) to also attend to the remains of the lone Filipino fatality and to monitor the search for a missing worker.

“Our officials are now on the ground in New Orleans and will soon be on their way to Baton Rouge to extend the necessary assistance to the affected workers,” Ambassador Cuisia said.

According to the envoy, the three officials will meet with doctors at the Regional Burn Unit of the Baton Rouge General Hospital where four Filipinos are being treated for serious burns sustained in the incident. They will also meet with three other Filipino workers and representatives of their employer, Gulf Isle Shipyard Inc., and the platform owner Black Elk Energy.

Ambassador Cuisia had earlier requested US authorities to resume their search efforts for the missing Filipino after the US Coast Guard called these off on Saturday evening following a 32-hour operation. The Pentagon, however, informed the Office of the Defense and Armed Forces Attache, under Brig. Gen. Cesar Yano, that the US Coast Guard still has assets that are monitoring the situation in the area.

“We know that it has been more than 48 hours but we Filipinos always believe in miracles and we continue to pray that our other kababayan will be found alive,” Ambassador Cuisia said.

Officials of Black Elk Energy were also reported to have said that their divers will continue their search for the missing Filipino worker, who was one of two initially unaccounted for following the explosion and fire that struck the oil rig they were working in some 25 miles off Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Black Elk Energy divers were the ones who later recovered a body in waters near the platform that the Embassy later confirmed as belonging to one of the missing Filipinos.

The Embassy said the identification of the body was made by officials of Grand Isle Shipyard shortly after it was brought ashore late Saturday night. The information was immediately conveyed to the Embassy, through the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, under Labor Attache Luzviminda Padilla.

The Embassy said there were nine Filipinos working on the oil platform at the time of the incident but it could not immediately confirm whether the three who were not reported missing or injured suffered minor injuries or were unhurt.

The nine Filipinos who figured in the incident are believed to be among an estimated 162 welders, fitters, scaffolders and riggers who were hired in the Philippines to work in offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. ###