Bad weather conditions have been hampering efforts to contain the huge oil slick that has begun washing up along the Louisiana coast.
Criticism has been mounting of the British energy giant BP over its handling of the spill.
The company’s efforts to stop the oil escaping from its undersea well have failed so far. It has been working against the clock with the Coast Guard to deploy floating booms, which act as walls to contain the oil.
Frank Cole, a scientist with Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources, said each trip enabled them to close off one or two water inlets.
“It takes about two hours turn-around time to get back and re-load,” he said. “We’ve never dealt with anything of this proportion. We’re optimistic that we can do some good, but a lot of it depends on how long this thing continues and what the prevailing wind direction is.”
So far heavy winds aided by high tides have been pushing oily water over the booms.
With nearly a million litres of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico every day, Louisiana and its neighbouring states of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida have all declared states of emergency.
The government has urged BP to commit more resources to tackling the spill.
President Obama announced that hundreds of emergency workers, ships and aircraft were being sent to the disaster zone.
“BP is ultimately responsible under the law for paying the costs of response and clean-up operations,” said the President, “but we are fully prepared to meet our responsibilities to any and all affected communities. And that’s why we’ve been working closely with state and local authorities since the day of the explosion.”
Fishermen are faced with an immediate loss of income; it is feared that when offshore shrimp beds become contaminated the season will end.
More strong winds have been forecast for over the weekend, that could push oil deep into coastal inlets.