Sediment eases flames at natural gas rig well off Louisiana coast

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Sand and sediment have filled the drilling area of a natural gas well off the coast of Louisiana, stopping the flow of fuel and limiting what was once a blaze to small flames, federal officials announced Thursday.

The well, located about 55 miles from shore in the Gulf of Mexico, has bridged over, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard announced in an email to reporters. Bridging is when small pieces of sediment flow into the well path, then restrict and eventually stop the flow of gas, the agencies said in a statement emailed to reporters.

"The fire has decreased to a small flame fueled by residual gas at the top of the well," said the agencies, which conducted flights over the well to check its status.

The well blew out during the day on Tuesday and caught fire later that night. All 44 workers had been evacuated. Parts of the rig collapsed, according to images of the scene.

Natural gas wells pose less of an environmental danger than oil wells, of special concern in the gulf region still dealing with the nation's worst oil spill: the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that allowed almost 5 million barrels of oil to pour in the Gulf and along the coasts of several states.

The Coast Guard maintained traffic restrictions within 500 meters of the well site and the Federal Aviation Administration restricted aircraft near the area.

Federal officials also said they will continue to work on securing the well.