Survivors of the Piper Alpha oil rig inferno were just realizing Friday the horror of the disaster, a hospital chaplain said.
"Some are in a bit of a mess, but they're only realizing now how fortunate they are," the Rev. Alan Swinton of the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary said after a visit to the wards, where 21 injured workers still were being treated.He spoke outside the gray stucco emergency wing of the hospital.
"Some are just now realizing the horror," he said as relatives of the survivors gathered at the hospital to stay overnight with their loved ones.
Hospital spokesman Alan Reid said some of the injured still were suffering shock and some were undergoing plastic surgery.
Earlier, he had said there were 22 survivors in the hospital, but later revised the figure to 21 due to an error in accounting.
Occidental, owners of the rig, reported Friday that 149 oilmen still were missing and presumed dead, and there were 17 confirmed deaths, for a toll of 166.
All of those hospitalized have some burns and some also have lacerations and broken limbs, Reid said. Occidental had arranged for a room in the emergency wing for relatives of the injured.
Swinton said he had been with families of the victims since early Thursday. "I have seen total strangers in the same sad situation. There was a bond, like during the blitz," he said, referring to the bombing of England during World War II.
On Thursday he had to watch as families waiting at the hospital for the arrival of the injured slowly gave up hope that their own relatives would be among those saved.
Bill Lobban, 27, a foreman blaster on the rig, had an emotional reunion with his wife, Susan. They were married only four weeks ago.
"We manged to find a way out and get out to the pipe deck," he said. "There were explosions all the time, but at least the air was fresher than where we had been.
"Then there was a lull in the flames, and we said this is our chance, so we just ran out and jumped about 100 feet to the water."
Tony Sinnett was aboard the adjacent support vessel Tharos, from where he watched the disaster.
"The worst moment was when I saw a half-dozen men on the helicopter deck. They seemed to be waving, but there was nothing that could be done to rescue them.
"Then the helideck keeled over, and the men disappeared."