Gulf of Mexico oil spill five times worse than thought


A giant oil slick is threatening to pollute the fragile wetlands of Louisiana, as officials warn that toxic crude oil is pouring into the Gulf of Mexico five times faster than first thought. The oil rig Deepwater Horizon sank last Thursday after an explosion that killed 11 workers.


Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal called on the government for emergency help to head off an environmental disaster.

This comes after a sudden change in the wind direction turned week-long response efforts on their head.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that more than 200,000 gallons of oil a day are now thought to be streaming into the sea from the debris of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

The vessel, which is leased by British energy giant BP, sank off the US southern coast last week two days after a deadly explosion.

P.J. Hahn, Coastal Zone Director for Plaquesmines Parish Government

BP has been leading the response to the disaster along with the US Coast Guard. It acknowledged the new leak, but said the flow of oil was unchanged at 1,000 barrels, or 42,000 gallons, a day.

"We fight year-round coastal erosion," said P.J. Hahn, coastal zone director for Plaquesmines Parish Government in Louisiana. "We're losing our coast at a rate of about a football field every 45 minutes. Certainly we're concerned that if the oil comes in it will kill the grasses, the vegetation, the marshes and would lead to further coastal erosion."

A portion of the slick, which has a 965-kilometre circumference, has broken off and due to strong onshore winds could hit coastal nature reserves.

Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry, the Commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District, is leading the government's response.

"The president urged out of an abundance of caution that BP must position resources to aggressively confront this incident," she said.

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