The Deepwater Horizon oil rig sunk into the Gulf of Mexico yesterday, spilling an undetermined amount of crude oil into the sea. Eleven crew members who have been missing since the offshore oil rig exploded and burst into flames Tuesday night are still unaccounted for.
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion now ranks among the worst offshore drilling disasters in recent U.S. history. The oil rig, which burned for 36 hours, was spilling 13,000 gallons of crude oil per hour before it collapsed.
According to a Bloomberg report, an oil spill measuring 100 square miles is drifting northeast toward shore. The U.S. Coast Guard is taking steps to minimize the environmental damage from the spill, and has dispatched skimming boats and about 1 million feet of boom. It has also prepared planes that drop substances that break up the crude.
An account from KFDM.com said officials had initially feared as much as 336,000 gallons of crude oil a day could be rising from the sea floor. However, no oil appeared to be leaking from the well head at the ocean floor, or the water’s surface. The oil currently being contained was residual from the explosion and sinking, the report said.
BP PLC, which was leasing the oil rig from Transocean LTD, said in a statement that it has “activated an extensive oil spill response.” The company has dispatched remotely operated vehicles to assess the well, and 32 vessels to mop up the spill.
The oil spill is raising serious environmental concerns, and could threaten the fragile ecosystem of the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts. Those areas serve as nurseries for fish and shrimp and habitat for birds.
The explosion on Deepwater Horizon occurred at 10:00 p.m. local time Tuesday night, about 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana. The cause of the blast is unknown, but Transocean said it appeared to be the result of a blowout, in which natural gas or oil forces its way up a well pipe and smashes the equipment.
Seventeen people were injured, with four in critical condition. Injuries included burns, broken legs and smoke inhalation.
Hope is fading that 11 men missing since the explosion will be found alive. According to Bloomberg, the Coast Guard has planned three aerial searches today.
If the missing are not found alive, the Deepwater Horizon disaster would go down as the deadliest U.S. offshore rig explosion since 1968.