Sunday, May 2, 2010



A vast, wind-dri
ven oil slick bore down on the U.S. Gulf Coast Sunday, threatening an economic and ecological disaster as President Barack Obama sharpened his criticism of BP Plc and pressed the energy giant to halt the oil gushing from its ruptured well.

"Let me be clear: BP is responsible for this leak. BP will be paying the bill," said Obama as he visited the area and pledged a "fully coordinated, relentless relief effort" in the region where the coastlines of four Gulf states are being menaced by the spill.

The government suspended fishing across a wide swath of its Gulf of Mexico waters, one of the most productive areas in the country, on worries about contamination of seafood.

The swelling black tide threatens wildlife, beaches and one of the world's most fertile fishing grounds in an area stretching across the Mississippi Delta from Louisiana to Florida.

"This is a terrible day. People can still fish west (of the Mississippi river) but if the oil keeps flowing the whole coast could be closed down," Roger Halphen, whose whole family is involved in commercial fishing, told Reuters in Venice.

A team of government agencies is working on relief, but Obama made it clear BP would be on the hook for what could be billions of dollars in cleanup costs.

In 2008, commercial fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico harvested more than one billion pounds of fish and shellfish, about 20 percent of domestic production, according to government


Since the explosion and sinking last month of the Deepwater Horizon rig, a disaster scenario has emerged with hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil gushing into the Gulf and moving inexorably north toward the coast.

Oil is still gushing into the Gulf from the leak more than mile under the sea, with no easy or quick fix in sight.

The looming disaster threatens to eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez catastrophe in Alaska, the worst previous U.S. oil spill to date.

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