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Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEWORLEANS-- A damaged natural gas rig continues to burn in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Coast Guard are on the scene coordinating the response effort about 55 miles southwest of Grand Isle.

A picture of the burning rig during a morning fly-over shows flames rising high above the Hercules Offshores natural gas rig, with parts of the drill floor and derrick collapsing into the Gulf of Mexico.

The well, leased by Walter Oil and Gas, blew out Tuesday and then caught fire Wednesday night about 40 miles south and 15 miles west of Grand Isle.

Jefferson Parish President John Young said so far the environmental impact appears to be minimal.

'No threat to human life,' Young said. 'Wild Well Control is on the scene. They have vessels on the scene with water monitors, so it's a controlled burn at this time.'

Forty-four crew members escaped the damaged rig without injury.

Initial efforts to fight the flames were reportedly hampered because of the intense heat from the large fire on the platform.

It could be days before crews get the situation on the burning under control. Sources are now telling Eyewitness News that equipment is being brought to the scene to drill a relief well that would divert the natural gas away from the damaged rig.

An investigation into the cause of the well blow out and fire is underway.

'The indications are there was a pile of sand that piled up, and they think the friction of the sand may have caused it to reignite last night around about 11 p.m.,' Young said.

It's bad timing for Grand Isle, which is preparing for its annual tarpon rodeo this weekend.

'We're going to be tarpon fishing tomorrow, for the next three days, and we're going to be probably closer to the mouth of the river actually is where we're going to be at,' Keith Adams said.

Anglers we talked to say they don't expect the situation on the rig to affect the fishing over the weekend.

'I know people are going to try and blow it up and make something out of it, but I don't think it's a big deal,' Sam Hebert said.

The Coast Guard is now enforcing a five-mile safety zone around the damaged rig.

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