Oil Gushes from Rig in Gulf as Workers Try to Contain Spill

Eleven of the rig’s 126 crewmembers weren’t found and are presumed dead.

More than 700 workers used boats, containment booms and airplanes to try to contain and break up the spill, about 53 miles south of Venice, La., said Petty Officer Tom Atkeson, a spokesman with the US Coast Guard’s 8th District.

The rig sank 5,000 feet in the Gulf of Mexico last week and continues to belch out about 1,000 barrels — or 42,000 gallons — of crude oil each day, Atkeson said. Workers were preparing the well for oil extraction when the rig exploded Tuesday night, sending crewmembers scrambling away in lifeboats.

Technicians have worked with remotely operated underwater vehicles to try to activate valves to plug the leak, but they have been unsuccessful, Atkeson said. If that doesn’t work, oil company workers will try to drill under the damaged well to relieve some of the pressure, he said. That process could take longer.

"It’s a large effort," Atkeson said. "We’re very diligently looking to see what we can do to stop the flow of oil, clean up the 600-mile sheen and also prevent it from reaching any sensitive areas."

The spillage from the Deepwater Horizon is relatively small compared with other major spills, such as the Exxon Valdez, which dumped 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989.

The incident has renewed debate over expanding offshore drilling in US coast waters. President Obama announced plans in March to expand offshore drilling in US coastal areas, while environmentalists warned of the possible impact to ecologies.
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