As Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico Spreads State of Emergency is Declared

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Thursday, April 29 as oil from a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico spreads closer to the coastline.

After an oil rig exploded last week on Friday, April 20, eleven people from that rig went missing and are presumed dead. The explosion also caused a massive oil spill which has been making its way to the Louisiana coast. Estimates of the amount of oil that leaked from the blown-out well that was underneath the rig was originally estimated at 1,000 barrels of oil a day. That estimate has increased to 5,000 barrels of oil per day after a third leak at the well site was discovered, which is five times the amount originally thought to be leaking.

Oil company BP PLC was operating the Deepwater Horizon, which was drilling in 5,000 feet of water about 40 miles offshore when it exploded last week. BP will likely face massive clean-up charges, plus legal action from those affected and possible damage to its global brand. This is not the first time BP has dealt with something like this. In 2005 an explosion at a refinery in south Houston killed 15 people and injured 170, the worst US industrial accident since 1990. BP was then fined a record $87m after US health and safety experts cited 270 violations at the refinery. They were also fined $50m by the Department of Justice in 2007 to settle criminal charges stemming from the explosion.

Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer of exploration and production, said the company was spending $6m a day trying to clean up the spill and stop the leak.

Cleanup efforts suffered a setback on Thursday when sea and wind conditions prevented officials from executing a controlled burn of some of the floating oil, said Rear Adm. Sally Brice O’Hare of the Coast Guard.

“We are being very aggressive, and we are prepared for the worst case,” Rear Adm. O’Hare said.

Authorities are saying the oil slick could begin affecting some coastal areas by Thursday evening, with the bulk expected Friday.

State officials estimated the oil slick covered some 600 square miles of water Thursday. Ten wildlife refuges or management areas in Mississippi and Louisiana are in the oil’s likely path.

At the White House, President Obama said the federal government will use “every single resource at our disposal” to help contain the oil spill. Obama has called the governors of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to discuss the spill, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

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