Oil spill reaches US coast

Leaking well spells disaster
Last Updated : 30 April 2010, 15:44 IST
Last Updated : 30 April 2010, 15:44 IST

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With up to 2,00,000 gallons of oil a day spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from a leaking well, the accident stemming from a sunken offshore rig threatens to rival the Exxon Valdez disaster as the worst oil spill in US history.

Strong southeast winds blew the first oily strands of the 600-mile-circumference slick directly onto the coastal wetlands of South Pass near the mouth of the Mississippi river late Thursday, Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish where oil washed ashore, said.

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 Defence, to address the incident,” President Barack Obama said.

Emergency declared
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.

Despite frantic efforts to stave off an environmental catastrophe, many of those dependent on the region’s vital fisheries and nature reserves had already given up hope due to strong onshore squalls forecast for several days to come.
Brent Roy, who charters fishing boats off the coast, said the rough seas through until Saturday would make it nigh on impossible that rescue teams would be able to contain the spill off shore.
“As it gets into the wildlife management area it is going to kill us,” he said.

Fishermen hit
“It’s the worst-case scenario for shrimpers, oyster harvesters, crabbers — all the commercial fisherman,” Roy said, referring to Louisiana’s 2.4-billion-dollar-a-year fisheries industry.

Two lawsuits against BP so far for negligence, meanwhile, are hinting at what is expected to be a flood of litigation from the disaster.
Jindal listed at least 10 wildlife refuges in Louisiana and Mississippi in the direct path of the oil slick that are likely to be impacted, warning that billions of dollars in coastal restoration projects could be wasted.

Oil was now gushing unabated from near the Deepwater Horizon platform which sank April 22 two days after a huge explosion that killed 11 workers.

Published 30 April 2010, 15:37 IST

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