The US Coast Guard has begun burning small pockets of the vast oil slick caused by last week’s oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
The oil is creeping towards Louisiana’s coastal nature reserves and is may hit land as early as Friday evening.
The burn is one of several short-term measures being taken while the rig operator British Petroleum tries to stem oil that is still gushing from damaged well pipes.
BP’s Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said:
“We will maintain those efforts until either we stop the flow of oil or actually we’ve exhausted every potential opportunity but I don’t expect that to occur soon.”
The controlled burn involves gathering the oil within an inflammable boom and setting fire to it.
One drawback is that it releases toxic fumes but these are thought to be less of a threat to birds and marine life than the oil itself.
Other plans to contain the spill include putting a dome over the oil flow, but this could take up to a month to be operational.