Oil slick reaches US shores, emergency declared

Oil from a giant slick washed ashore in Louisiana Friday, threatening a catastrophe for the US Gulf Coast.

Oil slick reaches US shores, emergency declared

Oil from a giant slick washed ashore in Louisiana Friday, threatening a catastrophe for the US Gulf Coast as the government called a national diasaster and mulled sending in the military.

Hundreds of miles of coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida were under imminent threat.

And with British Petroleum, which leases the wrecked rig, no closer to capping the ruptured well, the White House went into emergency response mode to try and avoid the kind of disaster that Hurricane Katrina brought to the US Gulf Coast in 2005.

"While BP is ultimately responsible for funding the cost of response and clean-up operations, my administration will continue to use every single available resource at our disposal, including potentially the Department of Defense, to address the incident," President Barack Obama said.

The event was deemed a disaster of "national significance," to better coordinate resources, as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal meanwhile declared a state of emergency and called for urgent help to prevent vital spawning grounds and fishing communities from pollution on a massive scale.

President Barack Obama pledged to "use every single available resource" and the U.S. military was mobilizing to help contain the spreading spill from the deepwater leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

It is pouring out crude oil at a rate of up to 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) a day, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -- five times more oil than previously estimated.

"State of emergency declared"

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, whose state is still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, warned the slick "threatens the state's natural resources." He declared a state of emergency and asked the Defense Department for funds to deploy up to 6,000 National Guard troops to help with the expected clean-up.

The spreading oil is about 3 miles (5 km) from a fragile wildlife preserve in marshland at the edge of the Mississippi Delta, which experts said would seriously damage the ecology of the area and could be very difficult to clean up.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Neopolitano declared it "a spill of national significance," meaning that federal resources from other regions could be used to fight it.

The Navy said it was supplying the Coast Guard with inflatable booms and seven skimming systems to try to contain the oil.

In Mobile, Alabama, U.S. Coast Guard Captain Steve Poulin, said authorities were preparing for "shoreline impact," although it was not possible to predict exactly when.

"We have a booming strategy for coastal Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle," Poulin said, adding that some 500,000 protection and containment booms were stockpiled along the coastline for deployment.

"Failure"


BP, which leased the rig from a Houston-based contractor Transocean, has been operating 10 robotic submarines in a so far unsuccesful bid to cap the ruptured well on the seabed some 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) below the surface.

As a back-up, engineers were constructing a giant dome that could be placed over the leaks to trap the oil, allowing it to be pumped up to container ships on the surface. The operation is expected to take weeks.

If the steel cap does not work, BP will have to rely on stemming the flow by drilling a relief well, which would take two to three months.

If it takes that long, the spill could be more than 300,000 barrels, larger than the 258,000 barrels leaked in 1989 by the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in the U.S.'s worst oil spill to date.

The White House said Obama had been briefed on how the slick may interfere with shipping channels, which it said could affect tankers delivering petroleum to the U.S. market.

It was not immediately clear to what extent shipping in the Gulf could be affected. While the Mississippi is a major export route for U.S. grains and the region is a significant importer of crude oil, there were no reports of disruptions.

Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead after the rig exploded 11 days ago.

Temporary ban on drilling?

There are signs the spill may be worse than one in 1969 off Santa Barbara, California, which prompted a moratorium on oil and gas drilling off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts -- a ban Obama has said he wants to modify.

But opponents of Obama's plan are moving to block more drilling.

Bill Nelson, a Democratic senator from Florida, said he was filing a bill to temporarily prohibit the administration from expanding offshore drilling, citing the risk of a potential "environmental and economic disaster" from the spill.

The Obama administration did not rule out imposing a pause in new deepwater drilling until oil companies can show they can control any spills that may happen.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, which handles more than one million barrels a day of crude imports and is connected by pipeline to the biggest U.S. refining region, said it did not expect any effect on its operations, which remained normal.

Agencies

Last Mod: 30 Nisan 2010, 12:05
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