Australian Oil Rig Catches Fire

1 November 2009 (Last Updated November 1st, 2009 18:30)

An oil rig off the coast of Australia, which ruptured two months ago, spilling millions of litres of oil into the Timor Sea, burst into flames over the weekend. The damaged West Atlas rig, situated 125 miles off the coast of Western Australia, caught fire on Sunday during the latest att

An oil rig off the coast of Australia, which ruptured two months ago, spilling millions of litres of oil into the Timor Sea, burst into flames over the weekend.

The damaged West Atlas rig, situated 125 miles off the coast of Western Australia, caught fire on Sunday during the latest attempt to plug the leak.

The spill so far spans an area of at least 5,800 square miles of ocean.

The rig's Thailand-based operator PTTEP Australasia is expected to make another attempt to stop the spill by filling the well with heavy mud, according to the Australian Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson.

The company said that the only way to extinguish the blaze, which engulfed the deck and well-head platform, was to plug the well casting, which was 25cm in diameter.

No one was onboard the rig when the fire started and workers on the West Triton relief rig, stationed 1.2 miles (2km) away, were safe from the blaze.

About 400 barrels of oil a day have been leaking from the West Atlas oil well since it ruptured on 21 August.