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'Eye of fire' forms after undersea gas leak in Gulf of Mexico

'Eye of fire' forms after undersea gas leak in Gulf of Mexico

Lightning storm ignited ‘eye of fire’ in Gulf of Mexico

  • Video of fire emerging from sea in Gulf of Mexico trended on Twitter
  • Mexican oil giant says no environmental damage after fire extinguished

Mexico’s state-owned oil company said Monday that a bizarre chain of events, including a lightning storm and a simultaneous gas pipeline leak, set off a strange sub-aquatic fireball seen last week in the Gulf of Mexico.

Petroleos Mexicanos said an intense storm of rain and lightning on July 2 forced the company to shut off pumping stations serving the offshore rig near where the fire occurred.

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Simultaneously, the leak in an underwater pipeline allowed natural gas to build up on the ocean floor and once it rose to the surface, it was probably ignited by a lightening bolt, the company said.

Pemex sent fire control boats to pump more water over the flames and no one was injured in the incident in the offshore Ku-Maloob-Zaap field. Pemex said it was repairing the pumps and investigating the cause of the gas leak.

The accident unleashed a sub-aquatic fireball that appeared to boil the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and drew a hail of criticism from environmentalists.

A video of the fire went viral on social media, with some Twitter users referring to the intense, orange bubbling mass in the water as an “eye of fire”.

Greenpeace Mexico said the fire, which took five hours to extinguish, “demonstrates the serious risks that Mexico’s fossil fuel model poses for the environment and people’s safety”.

Video of the ocean surface blaze went viral on social media. Photo: AP

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has bet heavily on drilling more wells and buying or building oil refineries. He touts oil as “the best business in the world”.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg reposted a video clip of the fireball on her Twitter account.

“Meanwhile the people in power call themselves ‘climate leaders’ as they open up new oilfields, pipelines and coal power plants – granting new oil licenses exploring future oil drilling sites,” Thunberg wrote. “This is the world they are leaving for us.”

Pemex, Mexico’s national oil company, declared that environmental damage was avoided due to quick action by its workers.

“There was no oil spill and the immediate action taken to control the surface fire avoided environmental damage,” the company said.

Associated Press, Reuters and DPA

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Lightning storm ignited ‘boiling eye of fire’ in Gulf