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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'