April 29, 2010
The US military has joined efforts to stop an oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico as fears rise about its scale.
Five times as much oil as previously thought could be leaking from the well beneath where a rig exploded and sank last week, US officials said earlier.
The slick is 45 miles (72km) by 105 miles (169km) - almost the size of Jamaica - and heading for the US coast.
A third leak has been discovered, and a fire-fighting expert said the disaster may become the biggest oil spill ever.
"Probably the only thing comparable to this is the Kuwait fires [following the Gulf War in 1991]," Mike Miller, head of Canadian oil well fire-fighting company Safety Boss, told the BBC World Service.
"The Exxon Valdez [tanker disaster off Alaska in 1989] is going to pale [into insignificance] in comparison to this as it goes on."
Scientists say only a quarter of local marine wildlife survived the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Some 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) a day were now thought to be gushing into the sea 50 miles off Louisiana's coast, said the US Coastguard's Rear Admiral Mary Landry.
If those estimates are correct, the spill could match the 11m gallons spilt from the Exxon Valdez within two months.
The scale of the operation to contain the oil spill and protect both the US coastline and wildlife is unprecendented, with the military and other government agencies collaborating with BP - which had hired the sunken rig - and industry leaders.
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