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    Deepwater Horizon spill worse than anticipated

    News // April 29, 2010

    The US Coast Guard has said that five times as much oil as previously thought could be leaking from a well beneath where the Deepwater Horizon sank in the Gulf of Mexico last week. Rear Admiral Mary Landry said 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) a day were now thought to be gushing into the sea 50 miles (80km) off Louisiana's coast. A third leak had also been discovered at the site, Adm Landry said.

    According to the BBC, the Coast Guard has 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 30 miles (50km) east of the Mississippi river delta, officials said. Weather forecasters have meanwhile warned that changing winds could drive the oil slick ashore by Friday night.

    "So great does the leak now appear that in less than two months it could match the 11 million gallon spill from the oil tanker Exxon Valdez off Alaska in 1989," said the BBC.

    Adm Landry said experts from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had revised up their estimate for the leak based on aerial surveys, applying dispersants, studying the trajectory of the slick, local weather conditions, and other factors.

    "This is not an exact science when we estimate the amount of oil. However, the NOAA is telling me now they'd prefer we use at least 5,000 barrels a day," she told reporters in New Orleans.

    Adm Landry also said she had been told of "a new location of an additional breach in the riser of the deep underwater well", about 5,000ft (1,525m) under the surface.

    According to the BBC, the oil slick currently has a circumference of about 600 miles (970km) and covers about 28,600 sq miles (74,100 sq km). Its leading edge is now only 20 miles (32km) east of the mouth of the Mississippi.

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