VENICE, Louisiana — An oil spill that threatened to eclipse even the Exxon Valdez disaster spread out of control and drifted inexorably toward the Gulf Coast on Thursday as fishermen rushed to scoop up shrimp and crews spread floating barriers around marshes.
The spill was both much bigger and closer than imagined — five times larger than first estimated, with the leading edge just five kilometers from the Louisiana shore. Authorities said it could reach the Mississippi River delta by Thursday night.
"It is of grave concern," David Kennedy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press. "I am frightened. This is a very, very big thing. And the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just mind-boggling."
The oil slick could become America's worst environmental disaster in decades, threatening hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife along the Gulf Coast, one of the world's richest seafood grounds, teeming with shrimp, oysters and other marine life.