News / USA

Latest Effort to Contain Gulf Oil Spill Under Way

Engineers with oil giant BP are making their latest effort to contain a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Workers were trying Saturday to plug a leaking underwater pipe with a tube that could be used to pump oil to a ship above.  BP has failed at previous efforts to contain the well, which has been gushing hundreds of thousands of liters of oil a day, since an oil rig exploded more than three weeks ago.

BP's chief executive, Tony Hayward, told BBC radio Saturday that he hopes the leak can be stopped in a week to 10 days. But he said the worst case scenario is "more than that, and it is impossible to say how much more."

U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered a full review of the agency that oversees oil drilling.  He says he will end what he called a "cozy relationship" between U.S. regulators and oil companies.

Hayward said the incident will be a "transforming event" for deep sea exploration and production activities, but stressed that he does not believe it should stop them.

Several U.S. government agencies are working to protect the southern U.S. coast as the oil slick created by the spill approaches.  Workers have set up floating barriers and sprayed special chemicals to break up the massive oil slick that has formed on top of the water.

The U.S.-based environmental group the Center for Biological Diversity says it is suing U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.  The group says the Mineral Management Service, which Salazar oversees, improperly approved oil drilling projects including the one that led to the current crisis.

Estimates vary widely on the amount of oil spilled since a BP rig exploded on April 20.  Based on initial estimates by the U.S. government, the current volume is almost 20 million liters.  But The New York Times reported that in a closed-door meeting earlier this month, a BP executive gave U.S. congressmen "worst case scenario" figures that could put the oil slick's current size at more than 200 million liters.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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