Blast rocks Caspian Sea area near Azerbaijani gas field

MOSCOW (AP) — A strong explosion has shaken the Caspian Sea area where Azerbaijan has extensive offshore oil and gas fields. A column of fire rose from the area late Sunday, but the state oil company said none of its platforms were damaged. The state oil company SOCAR said the blaze may have come from a mud volcano. The Caspian Sea has a high concentration of such volcanoes, which spew both mud and flammable gas. SOCAR spokesman Ibrahim Ahmadov told the Interfax-Azerbaijan news agency on Monday that the company staff found a mud volcano ablaze on the uninhabited island of Dashly about 30 kilometers (20 miles) off the coast of Azerbaijan.