NEW ORLEANS

Natural gas rig stable after fire in well snuffs itself out

A drilling rig that caught fire after a natural gas blowout in the Gulf of Mexico appears stable now that the fire is out, and there was no sign of any oil sheen on a fly-over Thursday morning, a rig company executive said.

“The well essentially snuffed itself out,” said Jim Noe, a vice president with the rig owner Hercules Offshore Inc., speaking in a telephone interview. The well had blown wild Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of 44 workers. The rig caught fire Tuesday night and part of it collapsed.

The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement announced Thursday morning that the well had clogged with sand and sediment, a process called “bridging over” that Noe said can commonly happen with shallow water wells. Now, officials are focusing efforts on permanently plugging the well and finding out why it blew wild – including why the blowout preventer system on the rig failed to stop the accident.

There were no injuries when the blowout occurred about 55 miles off the Louisiana coast at a well operated by Walter Oil & Gas

BAGHDAD

Militants set up checkpoint to kill drivers, bomb cafes

Emboldened militants in Iraq set up their own checkpoint to kill drivers and bombed crowded cafes Thursday in the deadliest of a series of attacks that killed at least 42 people, authorities said.

More than 550 people have been killed in violent attacks so far this month, according to an Associated Press count, as violence continues during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The speaker of Iraqi parliament even has acknowledged that insecurity in the nation likely will get worse after a massive al-Qaida-claimed prison break freed hundreds of inmates.

The deadliest attack Thursday happened when a bomb exploded inside a crowded cafe north of Baghdad, killing 16 diners and wounded 20 others.

– From news service reports