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The 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster, in which 167 men died, was remembered by survivors, victim’s family members and government representatives at the Memorial Garden in Aberdeen’s Hazlehead Park, on Saturday.

The Piper Alpha disaster occured on 6 July 1988, when explosions and a fireball ripped through an oil rig in the North Sea.

The tragedy, which left a deep impact on the offshore oil and gas industry and directly led to over 100 changes in safety practices, has been highly debated over many years, with experts saying that offshore safety is still a prerogative.

Rev Gordon Craig, the chaplain to the oil and gas industry, said: "Piper Alpha has taught the industry a lot of things."

"Sadly it took the lives of 167 men for it to learn some of the lessons. But the safety of the North Sea has improved beyond all recognition," Craig added.

Marking the anniversary UK Prime Minister David Cameron wrote to Oil and Gas UK saying: "The 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster is a fitting moment to mark the skill, bravery and dedicated professionalism of all those who work offshore."

"We will never forget the 167 who lost their lives. And my thoughts as Aberdeen remembers its loss are with their families and loved ones, the survivors and all those involved on that tragic night," Cameron added.

First Minister, Alex Salmond, said the anniversary has rightly put a substantial emphasis in making sure that the new generation of of offshore workers understand the importance of Piper Alpha when creating the current offshore safety regime.

"The Piper Alpha disaster occured on 6 July 1988, when explosions and a fireball ripped through an oil rig in the North Sea."

"However, given that the oil industry will be with us for the next half century and more, we also have a responsibility to ensure that a new generations of Scots understand the significance of the world’s worst offshore disaster," Salmond added.

Since the explosion happened 25 years ago, safety has improved considerably on the North Sea oil and gas platforms, however, experts warn that there is no room for complacency.

Oil & Gas UK, in a latest report, has found that oil and gas leaks dropped by 48% in three years between 2010 and 2013, against a target of 50%.

Oil & Gas UK health and safety director, Robert Paterson, said: "While several major incidents have had to be addressed in the period covered by this report, non-fatal, over-three day, and combined fatal and major injury rates have all been in steady decline."

Judge Lord Cullen, who led the investigation into the tragedy, found the accident was not due to technical or human failures alone.


Image: Piper Alpha disaster memorial in Hazlehead Park, Aberdeen; Photo: courtesy of Angusmclellan.

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