Louisiana seeks emergency assistance as oil spill nears coast

oil_spill_mexico_gulf_louisianaThe southern US state of Louisiana is seeking emergency assistance to help protect its fragile coast from an oil spill that could hit beaches this week.

Governor Bobby Jindal has requested additional resources from the US government "following reports that part of the oil sheen broke off and will now reach Louisiana's coast earlier than previously expected.

"Our top priority is to protect our citizens and the environment. These resources are critical to mitigating the impact of the oil spill on our coast," Mr Jindal said.
The US Coast Guard said that oil was now spilling at a rate of 5,000 barrels a day, five times greater than previously estimated, from an oil rig that sank off the Gulf of Mexico last week following a deadly blast.

Mr Jindal said he had spoken with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano "to outline the state's needs as we brace for the impact of the oil spill on our coast."

If large quantities of the crude reach Louisiana's marshy wetlands, mopping it up would be next to impossible.

It would be disastrous for natural parks full of waterfowl and rare wildlife and could also imperil the southern state's $2.4 billion a year fisheries industry, which produces a significant portion of US seafood.

"By relying on models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, we have identified areas that are in need of additional oil containment booms," Mr Jindal said.
"We have requested additional booms to cover all the coastal areas that will be impacted by the oil spill. These will protect our coasts and fisheries in the event the oil reaches our shores."

An official from BP PLC, which leases the rig, said he did not believe that a newly discovered leak had increased the amount of oil spilling into the water beyond earlier estimates. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry disagreed with his statement at a news conference and said she was relying on a new estimate from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

She said NOAA experts now estimate that 5,000 barrels a day of oil were spilling into the gulf. Officials had estimated the leak for days at 1,000 barrels a day.
The news came hours after crews tried a test burn on the massive spill to try to slow it from reaching the US shoreline.

Amid several of the thicker streaks, four gray whales could be seen swimming in the oil. It was not clear if the whales were in danger.

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