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THE RIG RESCUE; 20 saved in collision scare.

Byline: By ALWYN THOMAS

TWENTY workers were airlifted from a gas rig last night as a 3,000-tonne ship drifted out of control towards them.

Rescuers also drew up plans to take off the nine-man crew of the coaster Vindo as it threatened to crash into the rig 90 miles offshore.

As high winds and heavy seas pushed the ship towards the Murdoch rig in the North Sea, Michael Mulford, from the RAF rescue centre at Kinloss, summed up the danger.

He said: "It all depends on whether the ship hits with a glancing blow or a full-frontal assault. The crew on the rig are doing all they can to shut down the rig to minimise the effect of what could be a potentially very serious collision." The alarm was raised yesterday afternoon when the Vindo, carrying 4,000 tonnes of fertiliser, lost engine power 90 miles from the Humber estuary. As pollution teams were put on standby, the crew dropped an anchor to slow the vessel.

The decision to evacuate 20 of the 30 workers to another rig was taken as the Vindo came within eight miles of the Murdoch rig.

Mr Mulford said: "The 10 men still on board the rig and the nine crew on the Vindo can be airlifted off if the situation becomes critical. For the men on board the ship it's certainly a white-knuckle ride." Later the Vindo's anchor was reported to be holding as engineers tried to restore the ship's power.

mirrornews@mgn.co.uk

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THREAT: The rig
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 12, 2007
Words:257
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