Four days after a deadly fire damaged a Gulf of Mexico oil-drilling platform, Mexican officials on Sunday said the search continues for three missing workers while the repairs have begun to resume production at the facility.

In a briefing to reporters, officials from the national oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, presented a detailed timeline of their response to the massive fire that ignited in the early morning hours Wednesday and killed at least four people, injured 45 more, and forced the evacuation of more than 300. They said their response contained the blaze to one part of the shallow-water platform complex, prevented oil from spilling into the ocean and will allow production to return to pre-fire levels soon.

“It will be possible to reach in the next week 80 percent of the production that there was before the accident,” said Gustavo Hernandez, Pemex’s director general of exploration and production.

The deadly fire has come at a difficult time for Mexico’s oil industry, which underwent a series of reforms over the past year to open it up to foreign investment for the first time in more than 70 years, in response to sagging production. Low world oil prices have forced Mexico to plan for billions in budget cuts and scale back the short-term ambitions of its partnerships with foreign oil companies. The opening of the oil sector is moving forward: Last month Pemex signed its first major investment, with U.S.-based companies Blackrock and First Reserve, for a pipeline project to bring U.S. natural gas to Mexico. But Pemex has also predicted this year’s crude oil output would fall because of the budget cuts.

Company officials on Sunday stressed that when the fire started, their emergency procedures helped prevent an even greater tragedy — such as the gusher of oil that pumped into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill — and that foreign companies could have confidence in Pemex’s security procedures. Pemex officials said that their company has a lower rate of accidents than the international average.

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fireball that blew up at the Abkatun-A Permanente platform in 125 feet of water in the Campeche Sound. The fire, which burned for more than half a day, broke out at 3:40 a.m. April 1 on a three-story processing facility where the petroleum lines could be shut off, allowing authorities to prevent major spills.

Source: Washington Post