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DFA searching for missing Pinoy in oil rig blast

MANILA, Philippines -  A Filipino worker remains missing after an explosion and fire on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico last week which killed a compatriot, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday, November 20.

Divers hired by the rig owner recovered the remains of Elroy Corporal on Saturday, a day after the accident, and are looking for a second Filipino who had been declared missing, explained Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia.

"We know that it has been more than 48 hours but we Filipinos always believe in miracles and we continue to pray that our other (countryman) will be found alive," Cuisia said in a DFA statement.

He identified him as Jerome Malagapo, 28, of Danao, Cebu.

4 Pinoys injured

Four of the 11 injured by the blast are also Filipino. Three of the them sustained severe burns during the accident and are in "guarded" condition at the Baton Rouge General Hospital in Louisiana, Cuisia added.

The fourth Filipino, identified as 50-year-old Wilberto Ilagan, is conscious and in fair condition, the envoy said, citing the hospital's burn surgeons. 

Ilagan, who suffered burns to 35% of his body, was earlier reported to have asked his doctors to inform his family in the Philippines that he is alive and well after he was earlier erroneously reported to have succumbed to injuries he sustained.

“To my relatives, to my family, and to my country, I am alive and in good health. I am burned, but my heart and lungs are healthy,” he said in the message conveyed by his doctors on his behalf.

The top Philippine diplomat in the US noted after visiting Ilagan: “The entire Philippines is praying for your immediate recovery.”

The DFA has made arrangements for the family members of the injured contract workers to travel to the United States and has requested the US Embassy in Manila to facilitate the issuance of their visas.

OFWs hired in PH

US authorities said there were 22 people on board when the blast rocked the rig operated by Houston-based Black Elk Energy.

Nine of the 22 are Filipino workers, according to Cuisia, who added the Filipino embassy staff had yet to get in touch with the three others who he said were not among those reported seriously hurt.

The Filipino victims of the blast are believed to be among an estimated 162 welders, fitters, scaffolders and riggers who were hired in the Philippines to work in offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

The US Coast Guard had already suspended its search for the missing on Saturday before the body of Corporal was found.

However, Cuisia said that Black Elk Energy will continue searching for Malagapo. - Rappler.com, with reports from Agence France-Presse