Gulf Oil Spill is five times larger than previously estimated

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This aerial photo shows oil in the Gulf of Mexico, eight miles off the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River at the Southern tip of Louisiana

The United States Coast Guard said that five times more oil as previously thought is spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from the blown-out well of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

Coastguard Rear Admiral Mary Landry said National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) experts reported about 5,000 barrels a day were now thought to be gushing into the sea 80 kilometres off Louisiana‘s coast.The latest report is definitely far more than the previous estimate of 1,000 barrels a day. Robot submarines have so far failed to shut off the flow, 1,500m (5,000ft) below the surface, but the coastguard said a test burn on an isolated area of the spill was successful.

The report came after a third new leak has been discovered and strong winds would push the oil towards the shoreline.

Earlier, a coast guard crew set fire to part of the oil slick, in an attempt to save environmentally fragile wetlands.

The ”controlled burn” of surface oil took place in an area about 50 kilometres east of the Mississippi river delta, officials said.

Officials said that the first test burn had been successful, although neither gave any indication as to when further burns were planned.

However Doug Suttle, chief operating officer for BP, is taking much responsibility for the worsening condition of the rig “because we’re the lease holder,” but assigning blame, he said, should come after the cleanup.

“I can tell you we’re not worried about that right now,” he said. “Who’s ultimately responsible for what will come out over time through an investigations process.”

Meanwhile, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has requested emergency assistance from the federal government.

”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,” he said in a statement.