Rig ordeal 'almost over' for Tees man.
Nigerian warships and helicopters are preparing to rescue dozens of Brits, including at least one Teessider, being held hostage on offshore platforms.
Problems on board the rigs flared on April 19 when Nigerian strikers, protesting against rig owner Transocean, took 107 foreign nationals hostage.
A senior navy official said this afternoon that the captives "should be rescued" imminently but it was unclear if that meant a raid or some sort of organised surrender by the hostage-takers.
The Gazette understands at least one Middlesbrough man is among those being held.
Today his wife said the family was anxiously monitoring the Internet, teletext and TV news for any update.
"It is very worrying," she said.
"I know someone on the rig who phones me once a day to let me know what the situation is.
"And I spoke to my husband for five minutes on Monday and so I know he's holding up OK - but then he's not one to cause bother.
"All I want to do is get him back."
The strikers are protesting against a decision to use boats instead of helicopters to ferry Nigerian staff to the rigs and are also angered by company moves to dismiss five oil union members.
Today the Foreign Office confirmed Nigerian warships have set sail for the area.
But it played down reports that the move signalled the Nigerian navy's intention to intervene in the dispute.
Yesterday talks to end the 11-day stand-off ended in deadlock.
"We are aware that the Nigerian navy has a presence in the area but there is no suggestion that they will be intervening," said a Foreign Office spokesman.
"I don't see that this is a step up or a move to a different state of alertness."
Navy spokesman Captain Shinebi Hungiapuko said Nigerian warships were sailing for four platforms "to make sure everything is sorted out amicably if possible".
But, if negotiations failed, "then we will do what we have to do".
Some of the hostages have said they fear their captors will kill them or blow up the rigs if authorities try to free them with armed raids.
Their conditions are unclear, although no injuries or deaths have been reported.
The rigs are owned by American company Transocean and are drilling oil wells operated on behalf of oil multinationals Royal/Dutch Shell and TotalFinaElf.
Sabotage and hostage-takings by community activists, labour groups and thugs demanding compensation for land use and alleged environmental damage are relatively common in the Niger Delta. Hostages rarely are harmed.
The rigs' owners, Houston-based Transocean, said the safety of workers was its priority.
Spokesman Guy Cantwell said: "We're continuing to work with the Nigerian government, the labour authorities, the embassies and the courts to end this peacefully. The safety of those on board the rigs is our main concern."
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)|
|Date:||May 1, 2003|
|Previous Article:||Faces of cruel duo in raid on OAP.|
|Next Article:||Mum died of head injuries after fall.|