State of Florida Governor Charlie Crist declared on Friday a state of emergency in coastal counties because of the threat from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“The oil slick is generally moving in a northerly direction and threatens Florida's coast”, Governor Charlie Crist said in the order declaring State of Emergency in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, and Gulf counties.
Earlier, US President Barak Obama said that that oil drilling remains an important part of the US energy policy and important to US security, but that it must be done responsibly. He said any future offshore tracts leased to companies to search for oil would be subject to better safety measures to prevent and control further spills.
The US Government has demanded BP (NYSE:BP) do more to tackle the oil slick that is threatening swathes of Louisiana's coast, placing responsibility for clean up squarely at the firm's door. “We cannot rest and we will not rest until BP permanently seals the wellhead and cleans up every drop of oil”, US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. “I am confident that we will get to the bottom of what happened here. Those responsible will be held accountable”.
Oil has begun to wash ashore in the southern US state of Louisiana. The oil reached the coastline Thursday night and is threatening to cause an ecological disaster. Blown by strong southeast winds, the sheen of oil reached the fragile coastal wetlands of South Pass near the mouth of the Mississippi river. Environmentalists fear it could be one of the worst US ecological disasters in years. The cost to the fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico area is estimated in several billion US dollars.
Experts are still unable to cap the ruptured underwater well, which federal officials estimate is spewing about 200,000 gallons of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico.
The crisis began on 20 April following an explosion on the rig, which is leased by British Petroleum (BP). The rig collapsed two days later. Three leaks were discovered in the well head and the riser pipe that had connected the rig to the well more than 1,500 metres below the surface.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency and asked the US Department of Defence for funds to deploy up to 6,000 National Guard troops to help with the expected clean-up.
President Obama pledged to “use every single available resource” and the US military is mobilising to help contain the spreading spill. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Neopolitano declared it “a spill of national significance”, meaning that federal resources from other regions can be used to fight it.