Sunday, 26 May 2013
Chevron Workers Left To Die On Platform, Survivors Say
Newly obtained testimonies from Chevron workers paint a sharply different picture of the days leading up to the deadly Jan. 16, 2012 blowout at a drilling rig that took two lives.
According to the U.S. oil company, there were no requests to evacuate the KS Endeavor rig and that staff on board did not call a halt to work although they were entitled to.
But new accounts from four of the platform workers describes workers pleading to be evacuated as smoke billowed for a borehole. The subsequent explosion engulfed the rig in flames, causing the two deaths.
The new information was shared with an investigative reporter from Reuters by Britain’s Rail, Maritime and Transport trade union, or RMT. The union claims the documents - transcripts of accounts from three workers – are genuine but that names of witnesses have been withheld to protect their employment prospects.
The accounts were backed up by subsequent interviews in Nigeria with a worker who was also on the rig.
Field Offshore Design Engineering, or FODE, which hired the subcontractor KS Drilling, declined to comment, citing confidentiality clauses in its contract with KS Drilling preventing them from making public any information about work for Chevron.
The fire that followed the blast burned on the rig for 46 days until March 2. Chevron drilled a relief well to stem the gas leak, sealing it on June 18. In an email to Reuters on July 2, Chevron said that an investigation with the Nigerian authorities concluded that an entry of high pressure gas in the wellbore had caused the failure of equipment and fire.
The newly-released accounts convey rising panic from some of those on the platform, who fearing a blowout, checked each morning the volume of smoke billowing from the drilling borehole.
"Chevron knew for over a week that the well was unstable yet they refused to evacuate us," said one of the rig workers who gave his account to the RMT union.
A Nigerian worker who was aboard the rig at the time of the blast said many wanted to be evacuated.
"At almost every point in time, we saw thick smoke coming out of the open hole, and we were all scared like hell because we could see a disaster happening any moment yet they (Chevron) did not evacuate us -- why, I do not know," the witness said.
"This is the reason so many of us survived because we were all aware that it was going to happen, but just didn't know when," he said.
The faulty Funiwa 1A well has since sealed by the San Ramon-based Chevron but a fine of $3 billion for environmental damages against the company is still pending.