Alarm system on Gulf oil rig ‘had been switched off’

Early warning systems on the Deepwater Horizon rig had been switched off, a federal investigation has been told.

Michael Williams, a chief technician at Transocean, the firm that operated the doomed rig for BP, told a federal panel in New Orleans that alarms had been disabled to prevent workers being woken up by false alarms.

He said he had protested to his supervisor, Mark Hay, a year before the explosion that destroyed the rig, but was told the alarm system had been "bypassed" on Transocean's "entire fleet".

His claims were made as the rigs, ships and other vessels in the Gulf of Mexico began to scatter to avoid the worst effects of a tropical storm that could hit as early as today. The storm made landfall in Florida yesterday and is forecast to pick up strength crossing the Gulf.

The evacuation was sanctioned by US authorities even though it will delay by as much as two weeks efforts to complete the two relief wells that promise finally to seal the gusher for good. "Preservation of life and preservation of equipment are our highest priorities," said Admiral Thad Allen of the US Coast Guard.

The rigs that were drilling relief wells, one of which had been on schedule for completion perhaps early next month, were hastily drawing up a mile of pipe before departing the area for safer waters.

Tropical Storm Bonnie, the second named disturbance of this year's hurricane season, was expected to pack winds of between 39 and 73 miles per hour by the time it nears the coast of Louisiana.

The approaching storm also prompted the Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, to announce a state of emergency last night. He said that officials along the coast would be ordering the evacuation of low-lying areas ahead of possible flooding from an expected storm surge.

BP expressed confidence that the new cap containment device that finally stopped the oil from leaking into the ocean last week would hold firm during the storm. The cap is one mile beneath the ocean's surface. For a while, however, the eyes and ears of BP at the site may be lost if the ships that operate the robots, cameras and listening devices on the seabed are also forced to leave.

Those ships with the submersible robots on deck will be the last to depart, however, and if Bonnie is less severe than expected, may be able to remain. If it does become necessary to withdraw them and all the surveillance equipment then only satellite images would notify BP in the event of the cap failing and the flow of oil resuming.

Analysts predicted that the UK-based energy giant may post a second-quarter loss of $13bn (£8.4bn) reflecting the clean-up and containment costs and provisions made to answer financial claims against it.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Defendant Personal Injury 2+PQE

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - NICHE DEFENDANT FIRM - Defendant Pe...

Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: JAVA DEVELO...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Developer

£475 - £550 per day: Progressive Recruitment: MDAX / Dynamics AX / Microsoft D...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on