RIO DE JANEIRO – An explosion on a ship leased by state-run oil company Petrobras left three workers dead and another six missing on Wednesday, according to statements from Petrobras and also from Brazil's biggest oil industry union.
The Health Ministry for the state of Espirito Santo, where the explosion took place, said in an emailed statement that so far 10 workers have been treated for injuries — two for "grave burns" and another eight for "trauma."
The Unified Oilworkers Federation said in a statement on its website that the blast was caused by a gas leak in the engine room of the vessel, one of the many floating oil production, storage and offloading units that Petrobras employs in developing Brazil's massive offshore oil fields.
The union said the other 32 workers were safely evacuated from the ship, which was located 25 miles (40 kilometers) off the coast at the time of the explosion, onto a smaller vessel. It said that a fire on the Petrobras ship is under control and "there are no risks of more explosions."
The Brazilian government's National Oil Agency said in an emailed statement that the ship was "stable" and that no oil leaked as a result of the accident. The agency said its begun an investigation into what caused the explosion, but noted the ship passed a Navy inspection earlier this year.
Petrobras confirmed the incident and the numbers killed, hurt and missing in an emailed statement, saying that the ship operated in the Camarupim and North Camarupim offshore fields.
The accident comes amid a crisis for Petrobras, as federal investigators continue to probe a massive kickback scheme allegedly operated by former executives of the oil company, which saw them receiving hundreds of millions in bribes from construction and engineering firms in exchange for giving those companies inflated contracts.
The ship was leased by Petrobras starting in 2009 from Norway-based BW Offshore, according to the Norwegian firm's website, with a contract running at least to 2018.
Calls to BW Offshore's office in Rio de Janeiro were not answered.