A massive operation to evacuate a North Sea oilrig may have been triggered by a female worker's nightmare, it emerged last night.
The 23-year-old is said to have dreamt there was a bomb on board the accommodation platform where she was sleeping. That led to the alarm being raised and efforts made to airlift nearly 650 people to safety.
At the height of the drama, a total of 14 civilian and military helicopters, along with two other RAF aircraft, had been scrambled or were involved in the incident.
It is thought the evacuation operation, the biggest in the history of the North Sea, cost up to £4 million, including an estimated £3 million of losses suffered by the oil company Britannia, which was forced to suspend production.
When the catering worker awoke yesterday morning, she is said to have caused alarm with claims about a suspicious device being on the Safe Scandinavia, a "flotel" that is attached to the production platform Britannia, about 120 miles north-east of Aberdeen.
Britannia, the operator of the rig, said it had decided to order an evacuation while claims of a bomb threat by a crew member were investigated. The woman is understood have been detained by senior staff and sedated.
However, union leaders later claimed workers on board the Scandinavia had told relatives a rumour had spread around the flotel that the alert was triggered by a member of staff's dream.
The flotel, owned and operated by the Norwegian company ProSafe, is connected to the rig by a bridge, and Britannia decided to move everyone to the platform while the alarm was raised with Grampian Police.