DISASTERS

Search continues for up to 9 missing workers in Caspian Sea after oil platform collapses

An Azerbaijan state flag flutters in the wind on an oil platform in the Caspian Sea east of Baku, January 22, 2013.

An Azerbaijan state flag flutters in the wind on an oil platform in the Caspian Sea east of Baku, January 22, 2013.  (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)

Search and rescue efforts continue in the Caspian Sea after one worker was killed and nine others reported missing after part of an offshore oil installation broke off in strong winds off the coast of Azerbaijan.

The state oil company, known as SOCAR, reported on Thursday that a 490-foot section of walkway fell into the Caspian Sea during 90 mph winds and that 10 workers were swept away.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's office said in a statement that "the body of one of the missing has been found. Search and rescue operations are continuing."

The company said five victims had been working on the installation and another five were in a cabin dislodged by the high winds.

Senior oil official Balmirza Agarahimov said 10 boats were in the area carrying out the search, which would continue for a long time despite stormy, snowy conditions.

On Friday, three helicopters from the Ministry of Emergency Situations joined the search, Azer News reported.

Agarahimov  said the structure that was destroyed by the winds had been built in 1978 and had last undergone repairs in August.

The incident took place one year after the worst disaster in the history of Azerbaijan's oil industry, when a fire and lifeboat sinking on the Guneshli oil platform left 30 workers either confirmed dead or lost without trace.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.