NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana – The southern U.S. state of Louisiana is seeking emergency assistance to help protect its fragile coast from an oil spill the governor said could now hit as early as Thursday.
Governor Bobby Jindal had requested additional resources from the U.S. government "following reports that part of the oil sheen broke off and will now reach Louisiana's coast earlier than previously expected," a statement said.
"Our top priority is to protect our citizens and the environment. These resources are critical to mitigating the impact of the oil spill on our coast," Jindal said.
The US Coast Guard said late Wednesday that oil was now spilling at a rate of 5,000 barrels a day, five times greater than previously estimated, from an oil rig that sank off the Gulf of Mexico last week following a deadly blast.
Jindal said he had spoken with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano "to outline the state's needs as we brace for the impact of the oil spill on our coast."
If large quantities of the crude reach Louisiana's marshy wetlands, mopping it up would be next to impossible.
It would be disastrous for natural parks full of waterfowl and rare wildlife and could also imperil the southern state's 2.4-billion-dollar a year fisheries industry, which produces a significant portion of US seafood.
"By relying on models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, we have identified areas that are in need of additional oil containment booms," Jindal said.
"We have requested additional booms to cover all the coastal areas that will be impacted by the oil spill. These will protect our coasts and fisheries in the event the oil reaches our shores."
© AFP 2013