Obama to visit oil spill area

2010-05-01 14:58

Washington - US President Barak Obama will visit an oil spill area in the Gulf of Mexico in next 48 hours to assess the situation and the US government's response, a White House official said on Saturday.

Oil from a giant Gulf of Mexico slick began washing onto Louisiana shores on Friday, threatening an environmental calamity, as two more neighbouring states declared a state of emergency.

With up to 200 000 gallons of oil a day spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from a ruptured well, the accident stemming from a sunken offshore rig may soon rival the Exxon Valdez disaster as the worst oil spill in US history.

The Mobile Press-Register reported on Saturday that the US Coast Guard now feared the underwater oil well spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico could become an unchecked gusher shooting millions of gallons of oil per day.

Citing a confidential National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report, the Alabama newspaper said two additional release points had been found.

"If the riser pipe deteriorates further, the flow could become unchecked resulting in a release volume an order of magnitude higher than previously thought," the paper quotes the report as saying.

Earlier, Obama said some 1 900 federal response personnel were in the area with 300 boats and aircraft.

The White House also put new domestic offshore oil drilling on hold until the disaster has been fully investigated and sent teams to the Gulf Coast "to inspect all deep water rigs and platforms to address safety concerns".