From: Chris Baltimore, Reuters
Published April 29, 2010 06:05 AM

Gulf of Mexico leak grows, oil slick nears shore

The U.S. Coast Guard said on Wednesday five times as much oil as previously estimated was leaking from a well beneath the site of a deadly drilling rig explosion as the slick threatened wide-scale coastal damage for four U.S. Gulf Coast states.

The Coast Guard said that London-based BP Plc -- the owner of the well who is financially responsible for the cleanup -- found a third leak in a well 5,000 feet under the sea off Louisiana's coast.


"BP has just briefed me of a new location of an additional breach in the riser of the deep underwater well," Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry, who is heading the federal cleanup effort, told reporters at a briefing.

Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead after the worst oil rig disaster in almost a decade.

Swiss-based Transocean Ltd's Deepwater Horizon rig sank on April 22, two days after it exploded and caught fire while it was finishing a well for BP Plc about 40 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

President Barack Obama has been briefed on the situation, and "we have urged BP to leverage additional assets," including possible help from the U.S. Defense Department, Landry said.

The oil slick threatens coastal wildlife refuges, pristine beaches and estuaries in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

The leak is now estimated at 5,000 barrels per day -- five times more than previously estimated.

The leaking well has already created an oil sheen and emulsified crude slick slightly bigger than the U.S. state of West Virginia, which BP and the Coast Guard are scrambling to contain before it reaches land.

BP and the Coast Guard have already mounted what BP has called the largest oil spill containment operation in history, involving dozens of ships and aircraft.

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