The oil well connected to a drilling rig that sank in the Gulf of Mexico last week after a fiery explosion is gushing crude oil, raising fears of a severe environmental hazard.
An oily sheen on Sunday covered 600 square miles, an area twice as large as the five boroughs of New York. The slick, which is spreading north, is about 70 miles south of the Mississippi and Alabama coastline, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
Efforts to shut off the well have been unsuccessful. The leak, which was discovered Saturday through information from underwater cameras, is still gushing 1,000 barrels a day from the seafloor.
The offshore accident has left BP PLC, the U.K.-based company that was exploring for oil on the rig, scrambling to contain both the spill and any potential damage to its reputation. BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward flew to the gulf coast on Friday to oversee the response.
BP has mobilized most of its senior management to deal with the oil spill, which is being seen as potentially the biggest crisis the company has faced since the explosion and fire at its Texas City, Texas, refinery five years ago that left 15 people dead and scores injured.