3 Filipinos in US oil rig fire remain in ‘guarded condition’

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In this aerial photograph, a supply vessel moves near an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico damaged by an explosion and fire, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, about 25 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La. Four people were transported to a hospital with critical burns and two were missing. AP/Gerald Herbert

MANILA, Philippines—Three of four Filipino worker seriously burned in an oil platform fire off Louisiana’s coast remained in “guarded condition,” the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. said.

“The condition of the three Filipino workers who suffered the most serious burns remains guarded while the fourth continues to improve,” Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr., who flew to Louisiana, said after he was briefed by officials of the Baton Rouge General Hospital Monday.

Fifty-year-old Wilberto Ilagan, one of four burn victims taken to Baton Rouge General Medical Center after the accident was the patient whose condition was upgraded to good on Monday. He had earlier been listed as “fair.”

Hospital officials allowed Cuisia to see Ilagan. He was accompanied by Deputy Consul General Orontes Castro, Jr. of the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago.

“The entire Philippines is praying for your immediate recovery,” Cuisia told Ilagan, who sustained burns in 35 percent of his body, at the hospital’s Regional Burn Unit.

Cuisia told Ilagan that President Benigno Aquino and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario sent him there to “personally look into his condition and to extend all possible assistance to him and his family in the Philippines.”

Ilagan, who was in a wheelchair and assisted by a Filipina nurse, had earlier issued a statement asking his doctors to “tell my countrymen to pray for us and our quick recovery… And that our caregivers are always with us, and they are very kind to us.”

Friday morning’s fire happened on a shallow-water offshore rig off the coast of Plaquemines Parish. One worker, identified by the embassy as 42-year-old Elroy Corporal, was killed in the accident.

Cuisia said there was still no word on the fate of Jerome Malagapo, 28, of Danao, Cebu, who remained missing more than three days after the incident. He said Black Elk Energy, the Houston-based independent oil and gas firm that owns the ill-fated platform, would continue searching for him.

Doctors at the Baton Rouge General Medical Center, which is considered the best burn center in the region,  were hopeful that the critically injured workers would soon recover, he said.

“I’m sure that with the special care and attention you’ve been extending to our four countrymen, our four countrymen will recuperate sooner rather than later,” Cuisia said. With a report from Associated Press in New Orleans

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