Oil slick threatens disaster

US President Obama to visit affected area

With Obama expected in the area on Sunday, windy weather earlier hurt efforts to corral the slick and the US admiral in charge of the response to the spill said it was inevitable oil would reach the coastline.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal warned that the growing oil slick, already one of the largest spills in US history, threatened his state’s “way of life.”

He said British Petroleum and the Coast Guard still had not provided him with detailed plans on how to protect the coast even though the explosion that prompted the leak at an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico occurred April 20.

Heavier oil from the leak was expected to hit the coast Sunday, he said. The chain of events has led to a nightmare scenario for Louisiana only months ahead of the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Fishermen and coastal communities finally back on their feet after the 2005 disaster braced for more pain.

“I guess we’re probably going to end up out of business,” Al Sunseri said of his 134-year-old processing company, P&J Oyster in New Orleans’ historic French Quarter, as he considered the potential impact.

Louisiana accounts for an estimated one-third of the country’s total oyster output, and the Gulf of Mexico is prime spawning ground for fish, shrimp and crabs, as well as a major stop for migratory birds.

In neighboring Mississippi, BP officials told local leaders that beaches along the state coastline probably cannot be protected from the spill and will have to be cleaned after it comes ashore.

Cleaning the intricate marshland along Louisiana’s coast, a buffer zone for hurricanes that is already quickly eroding, is likely to be a daunting task.

Environmentalists said it could take decades for the maze of marshes — more than 40 percent of America’s ecologically fragile wetlands — to recover if waves simply wash the oil over miles of boom set up to protect the coast.

“There probably isn’t enough boom in the world to protect what needs to be protected,” said Mark Floegel, a researcher with Greenpeace.

Engineers are racing against time to shut off the flow of oil from a ruptured well some 50 miles off the coast but are getting nowhere fast as more than 200,000 gallons of crude spews into the sea each day.

Commandant Admiral Thad Allen of the US Coast Guard, newly-appointed by Obama to spearhead the government response to the burgeoning disaster, admitted the weather conditions meant a major shore impact was inevitable.

“There’s enough oil out there, I think it’s logical to assume that it will impact the shoreline,” he told reporters.

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