BP oil spill: Caribbean islands fear slick will reach pristine beaches

Saturday, June 12, 2010
By Paul Martin

Caribbean officials have told Hillary Clinton that they are deeply concerned at the prospect of the mammoth Gulf of Mexico oil spill reaching their islands’ famously pristine beaches.

11 Jun 2010

Noting the “very sobering” analysis from Bahamian foreign minister T. Brent Symonette on what would happen if the oil reaches the powerful loop current – which could sweep the spill past Florida to soil beaches of the Bahamas, Jamaica and beyond – Mrs Clinton said: “We earnestly hope that does not happen.”

Antigua’s prime minister Baldwin Spencer noted the clear “anxiety in the region” about the spill smearing the island nations’ idyllic, shores, which draw millions of tourists to the region each year.

New US government figures show that between 20,000 and 40,000-plus barrels of oil were pouring from BP’s ruptured Gulf well – more than twice the government’s previous estimate – compounding what is already the worst oil spill in US history.

Mrs Clinton admitted that “our understanding of and preparation for dealing with a disaster like this is out of date.”

Adding there were ways to deal with oil tanker accidents but not “catastrophic” blowouts in deep-water drilling, she said that there was a need “to start now to get better prepared to deal with something of this magnitude in the future.”

BP is frantically trying to stop oil leaking from a fractured pipe one mile down on the sea floor and prevent the giant slick spoiling even more of the ecologically fragile marshlands and nature reserves along the US Gulf Coast.

Fears abound, however, that an intense hurricane season this year could spread the spill further afield and, if it reaches the loop current, carry millions of gallons of heavy crude directly toward the Caribbean islands.

Many Caribbean countries rely on income from tourism to keep their economies afloat.

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