An oil rig on Lake Pontchartrain exploded on Sunday night in Kenner, Louisiana, home of the Louis Armstrong International Airport and only a few miles from New Orleans. Authorities began receiving calls about the explosion around 7:18 PM on Sunday; although no official explanation has been offered, authorities on the scene believe the explosion was caused by flammable cleaning chemicals on the oil rig’s surface. At least seven people were injured in the blast and, according to initial reporting, one person is missing. Many of the injuries were serious and authorities expected more to be reported in the near future.
Lake Pontchartrain is a brackish body of water that is about 12-14 feet deep, though some shipping channels are dredged deeper, and covers 630 square miles to the north of New Orleans. The exploding rig in the Lake is owned by Clovelly Oil Co., which uses the structure for transferring oil. It is possible that oil is still leaking into Lake Pontchartrain, though this will not affect local drinking water, which is sourced from the Mississippi River. Local residents report having their homes rattled when the explosion occurred. “My house actually shook,” said Andrew Love, who lives in the area. “At first I thought it was a sonic boom or something, I had no idea what was happening.” No damage to homes has yet been reported.
George Branigan was sitting at home with his wife and stepdaughter when the explosion happened. “We heard something blow up and it sounded like it was in my backyard,” Branigan said. After going outside to investigate, Branigan heard what sounded to him to be small pebbles, likely debris from the explosion, falling on his home. Branigan was still watching the flames from his porch several hours after the explosion.
Images via City of Kenner Government