April 30, 2010

Oil Slick Reaches Louisiana Coastline

The oil slick that resulted from a sunken rig has now reached the shores of Louisiana, and with as much as 200,000 gallons of crude being added to the Gulf of Mexico daily, the accident could wind up becoming the worst such disaster in United States history.

According to Allen Johnson of the AFP, "Strong southeast winds blew the first oily strands of the 600-mile- (1,550-kilometer-) circumference slick directly onto the coastal wetlands of South Pass near the mouth of the Mississippi river late Thursday"¦ Hundreds of miles of coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida were under imminent threat."

Wednesday night, Coast Guard officials revealed that the Deepwater Horizon platform, which exploded and started sinking into the Gulf waters ten days ago, was leaking five times as much oil as they had previously believed. They also confirmed the existence of a third leak.

Thursday night's events could be the beginning of a worse-case scenario for environmentalists and residents of coastal cities. The spill could have a devastating effect on the wetlands habitat, as tides push the crude oil deep into the marshes, harming large amounts of birds, mammals, and marine life forms in the vicinity. Furthermore, it could cripple Louisiana's nearly $2.5 billion shrimping, crabbing, and fisheries industry.

A state of emergency has been declared in the state, and with no end in sight, Canadian oil-well firefighter Mike Miller has said that the Deepwater Horizon spill could wind up becoming "biggest oil spill in the world," telling the BBC News Thursday that "the only thing comparable to this is the Kuwait fires [after the 1991 Gulf War]"¦ The Exxon Valdez [tanker disaster off Alaska in 1989] is going to pale in comparison to this as it goes on."

In the wake of the oil spill, the U.S. has placed a temporary moratorium on new coastal drilling. The announcement was made by White House adviser David Axelrod on ABC television and reprinted in an April 30 BBC News article. The U.S. Navy has been mobilized and sent to the scene to try to help the disaster, that same BBC News report states.

In March, President Barack Obama announced his intent to ease restrictions on offshore drilling, but the Deepwater Horizon incident--which left 11 workers missing and presumed dead--could alter those plans.

"Could that possibly change his viewpoint? Well, of course," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told Reuters on Friday. "I think our focus right now is: one, the area, the spill; and two, also to ultimately determine the cause of it and see the impact that that ultimately may or may not have."


Image Caption: On April 29, the MODIS image on the Terra satellite captured a wide-view natural-color image of the oil slick (outlined in white) just off the Louisiana coast. The oil slick appears as dull gray interlocking comma shapes, one opaque and the other nearly transparent. Sunglint -- the mirror-like reflection of the sun off the water -- enhances the oil slick's visibility. The northwestern tip of the oil slick almost touches the Mississippi Delta. Credit: NASA/Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of the University of Wisconsin's Space Science and Engineering Center MODIS Direct Broadcast system.


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