US braced for worst as massive oil slick spreads
SATELLITE observations show part of the slick from BP's leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico has entered the current that carries water towards the US east coast and Europe.
The news came as fears that the spillage could escalate into an unprecedented ecological disaster intensified.
Millions of gallons are already in the Gulf, and researchers said that in recent days they have discovered miles-long underwater plumes of oil that could poison sea life across the food chain, with damage that could last for a decade or more.
Robert Weisberg, an oceanographer at the St Petersburg, Florida-based university, said oil entering the strong current could travel through the Florida Keys and into the Atlantic Ocean.
The well is leaking an estimated 5,000 barrels a day of crude oil.
And at least 94,000 barrels (3.9 million gallons) have leaked into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on April 20 and sank two days later, causing the death of 11 crew members.
The spill total is based on initial leak-rate estimates of 1,000 barrels a day and the 5,000-barrel-a-day estimate since April 28.
Yesterday, Coast guard rear admiral Peter Neffenger revealed that the disaster was beyond what anyone anticipated. Adm Neffenger said that, at the very minimum, officials would need to go back and look at how future response plans should be revised.
Adm Neffenger and US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano were the first two administration officials to testify in Congress about the deadly spill.
And in a separate development last night the proposed cap of $10bn (€8.06bn) in liability for oil companies to cover damages from future oil spills was deemed "inadequate," by the US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Democrats have introduced legislation that would raise the current $75m (€60m) liability cap to $10 billion per company for each incident.
Mr Reid urged fast action on raising the cap, saying that $75m was "clearly insufficient" but, "I certainly think a $10bn cap is inadequate." In his prepared remarks, Mr Reid cited a report on CBS's '60 Minutes' of "damning evidence that the roots of this tragedy are in BP executives' efforts to pad their own wallets".
"Their greed led to 11 horrific and unnecessary deaths. It has harmed an enormous tourism industry, threatened business at countless fisheries and disrupted life for many along the Gulf Coast," Mr Reid said.
"As the pollution grows worse, those consequences will only compound."
Last night BP said that the company has started drilling a
second relief well at the site off the coast of Louisiana.
The oil giant is using a long tube to siphon some of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, but the relief wells are a more permanent solution.
It will be months before they're complete.
Drilling on the original relief well has been under way for weeks. The second is a back-up well.