British energy giant BP now says it has successfully started capturing some of the oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico. Using underwater robots the firm has been able, in the last 24 hours, to funnel some 1000 of the 5000 barrels of crude spilling into the sea on a daily basis.
Engineers have begun pumping the outflow up to a tanker ship on the surface. It amounts to around one fifth of the total leak, despite some experts estimating the spill is much bigger. Nevertheless, BP admits that it’s only a temporary solution.
BP Chief Operating officer Doug Suttles: “The final solution is to get it to stop. Our next attempt to stop the flow should occur the second half of this week, the later part of this week, when we actually either pursue what we call the junk shot technique, which is to put material in the blow out preventer which will cause it to plug up.”
Pressure is mounting on the British oil giant after scientists discovered giant plumes of oil forming underneath the ocean surface, one estimated to be 16 kilometres long. It has raised fears that the disaster could be much worse than previously predicted. Another major worry is that the slick could be picked up by powerful gulf currents, carrying it towards Florida and even as far as the US Atlantic coast.
For the moment Fishermen along the Louisiana coast are still going out after authorities re-opened waters. But many remain pessimistic about the industry’s long-term prospects.
Fisherman Ron Price said: “It’s completely disastrous. It’s wiped out a lot of work for us. We have been able to get a bit of work to get by on. Thank god for that The oil hadn’t completely come into our waters yet. It’s kind of a saving grace for us. It gives us an opportunity to work until things get really bad.”
While some traces of oil have washed up on the beaches of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, the bulk of the slick remains at sea. But experts wonder how long that will last, fearing the disaster will be worse than that of the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989.