NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana — Oil is leaking from the ruptured well of a large rig that exploded, burnt and sank in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this week, the US Coast Guard said Saturday.
The Coast Guard estimated that up to 1,000 of barrels of oil, or 42,000 gallons (158,987 liters) were spewing each day from a riser and a drill pipe, prompting further concerns of damage to Louisiana's fragile ecosystem, already stressed by hurricanes and coastal erosion.
Officials confirmed the discovery a day after the Coast Guard said that no oil appeared to be leaking from the well head.
Coast Guard Eighth District commander Rear Admiral Mary Landry told reporters the leak likely began on Thursday, when the rig sank two days after an initial explosion tore through the Deepwater Horizon semi-submersible oil drilling platform.
The best case scenario is sealing off the pipe ruptures in a few days; the worst case scenario is a matter of months. The Coast Guard said it would take several days before they determine how to stop the pipe leaks 5,000 feet (1,525 meters) down in the Gulf waters.
Petty Officer Connie Terrell told AFP the oil sheen was now 20 miles (32 kilometers) in diameter about 40 miles (64 km) off the Louisiana coast. Over 33,700 gallons (127,570 liters) of oily water mix have been recovered in the cleanup effort so far, she said.
"This is a devastating spill," said Anne Rolfes, an environmental activist and founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, which is bracing for wild fowl rescue efforts should the miles-long mix of crude oil and diesel fuel reach Louisiana's fragile coastal wetlands.
On Friday, the Coast Guard officially ended the search for 11 workers who had been missing since the platform erupted into flames late Tuesday.
Some 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel were on board the platform before the blast, and it had been drilling 8,000 barrels, or 336,000 gallons, of oil a day, according to officials.