A fire on an offshore oil platform in the Guneshli field near Azerbaijan has claimed the lives of 32 workers. More than 40 were rescued in an emergency evacuation as the inferno took hold.
The country's state energy company State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (Socar) said the fire started after a gas pipeline on the platform was damaged in heavy wind. The platform is understood to have been battered by high winds and waves of more than eight metres at the time.
"According to our information, 32 workers died, while 42 workers were rescued last night. The fire on the platform was finally extinguished," Mirvari Gakhramanly, head of Azerbaijan's Oil Workers' Rights Protection Committee, told Reuters.
Two firefighting boats and a diving vessel were thought to have been involved in the rescue attempt, which was initially hampered by a heavy storm. The platform is located 75 miles off the coast of the former Soviet nation.
Socar has also confirmed that workers on another oil rig, 18.6 miles from the fire-struck one, are missing after the storm. Last year, 14 workers were killed on Socar platforms.
Socar is a wholly state-owned national oil company headquartered in the Azerbaijan capital Baku. The company produces oil and natural gas from onshore and offshore fields in the Caspian Sea. It operates the country's two oil refineries, one gas processing plant and several oil and gas export pipelines.
The company owns fuel filling stations operated under its own brand in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Romania and Switzerland. It has an estimated 61,000 employees.