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Five missing in Oklahoma drilling rig explosion

[CHICAGO] Five Oklahoma drilling rig workers were missing Monday after an explosion caused a serious fire that burned for hours, according to authorities in the central US state.

The rig, near the small city of Quinton in eastern Oklahoma, exploded at approximately 8.45am (14:45 GMT), officials said.

Emergency crews found 17 workers who escaped the flames, but five others remained missing in the evening.

"We have searched the surrounding area and have not found anybody at this time," emergency manager Kevin Enloe of Pittsburg County, where the accident took place, said at a late afternoon news conference.

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One worker was airlifted to a hospital having suffered burns, he added.

Emergency responders were unable to get within 30m of the fire, and secondary explosions forced them to set up a wide perimeter.

They did not attempt to put out the fire directly to avoid spreading hazardous materials, Mr Enloe said. Officials did not know whether the new well was drilling natural gas or oil.

"Everything is contained to that location," he explained. "There's no need for an evacuation." Emergency officials were relying on private sector experts to determine how to extinguish the fire, which is expected to continue burning through the night and into Tuesday.

The rig was owned by Patterson-UTI, a provider of drilling services to North American oil and gas companies, which said it was responding to the incident, the cause of which was "unknown."

AFP

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