Death toll rises to five in blast on oil vessel off coast of Brazil

Death toll rises to five in blast on oil vessel off the Brazilian coast, with four workers still missing

The death toll from an explosion on an oil vessel off the Brazilian coast rose to five people, one of the companies operating the vessel said Thursday.

A statement issued by BW Offshore also confirmed that four crew members remained missing after the blast Wednesday off the coast of Espirito Santo state. The remaining 65 crew members were accounted for and, in some cases, receiving medical care, with two reported in critical condition, the company said.

Search and rescue efforts were continuing. “We cannot rest until the last four of our men are found,” Carl Arnet, chief executive of the Norwegian company, said in the statement.

The Cidade de Sao Mateus vessel, described as a floating production storage and offloading unit that produced 2,200 barrels of petroleum a day, was run by BW Offshore for Petrobras, Brazil's troubled energy giant.

No official cause of the explosion, which occurred about 75 miles off the coast, has been announced.

Until last year, Petrobras was the largest company in Latin America by share value. But allegations of a political corruption scheme involving billions of dollars have pushed down the company's value in recent months and threatened a further drag on Brazil's economy. The firm's chief executive, Maria das Gracas Silva Foster, resigned last week amid the scandal.

In January, an explosion at the Landulpho Alves refinery in Bahia state injured three workers. Last year, the director of Brazil's National Petroleum Agency said that offshore platforms were not always fully inspected.

Bevins is a special correspondent.

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