Nightly News   |  April 21, 2010

Search continues for missing oil rig workers

Coast Guard rescuers spent the day looking for at least 11 missing oil workers after a huge explosion rocked a drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana. NBC's Ron Mott reports.

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>> new york .

>>> coast guard rescuers spent the day looking for as many as 11 missing oil workers after a huge explosion rocked a drilling rig in the gulf of mexico about 50 miles off the coast of louisiana . it came out of nowhere, left several workers critically injured. the vigil is on again tonight for people working in a dangerous job. our own ron mott is with us tonight from louisiana . good evening .

>> reporter: brian , good evening to you. this all happened last night about 52 miles off shore behind us. tonight that fire is still burning on that rig which is said to be leaking oil into the gulf. this as the coast guard begins investigate what went wrong. despite efforts to contain the blaze today, the fire burned stubbornly hour after hour throwing a tower of thick black smoke skyward. the explosion rocked the rig about 10:00 central time tuesday night spraying flames in every direction, sending the crew of 126 workers scrambling for safety .

>> we have no idea where the 11 people unaccounted personnel are at this time. we'll continue to search.

>> reporter: officials say the deepwater horizon, one of a thousand in the gulf of mexico , was in the process of drilling but had not yet reached full production mode of pumping oil or gas. the rig, owned by swiss contractor transocean, was mining for british giant british petroleum , bp and is capable of reaching depths of more than five miles.

>> we don't know what caused the incident. our efforts are concentrated on caring for the people and secondly securing the rig.

>> coming up slowly.

>> reporter: the coast guard rescued nearly 100 workers who are expected to arrive back on shore some time this evening . others were airlifted to hospitals this morning in louisiana and alabama. three in critical condition . meantime, family members waiting for word about their loved ones are left to hope and pray for the best.

>> just tears coming out my eyes wishing that my daddy's okay. i just can't wait to see him. i know he's okay, i'm praying that he's okay. i just can't wait to see him.

>> reporter: the coast guard says it's prepared to search through the night for the missing. now, tonight this rig is listing, but they don't expect it to caps i'd. meantime, the coast guard hopes to get down underwater to shut off a valve that's fueling those fires as those families wait for the return of the survivors.

>> reporter: ron mott for us