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Gulf oil spill: BP calls disaster 'inconceivable'

May 2, 2010 | 11:58 am

South Pass
The accident in the Gulf of Mexico that has unleashed a massive oil slick was unforeseeable, said BP PLC Chairman Lamar McKay, speaking on ABC's "The Week" Sunday.

McKay said more preparations for such an accident weren't made because it "seemed inconceivable" that equipment in place to avert an oil-well blowout would fail.

McKay was referring to a valve mechanism sitting on top of the oil well nearly a mile down in the ocean which failed to shut in the malfunction. This valve device, the "blowout preventer," is the last line of defense against oil spurting out of the earth.

BP said it was activated but did not close. Its failure made what might otherwise have been a tragic accident and small spill into a vast crisis.

His comments came as the oil slick appeared to have tripled in size in the last two days and the first tendrils of oil began making their way into South Pass. This salt-marsh area in southeastern Louisiana is key to populations of crab, oysters, shrimp, redfish and other seafood.

"It's like a slow version of Katrina," said Bob Kenney, a charter-boat captain in Venice, La.

As speculation grew that the slick might reach the eastern coast of Florida, rough weather hampered efforts to combat the spill. Fisherman seeking to help lay a containment boom were thwarted.

Meanwhile, BP's efforts to stop the oil gushing from the broken blowout preventer were frustrated. The company, however, said it was preparing to lower a 40-foot-tall box over the well within six to eight days.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Birds fly past oil containment booms on May 1, 2010, along the South Pass, south of Venice, La. Credit: Eric Gay / Associated Press

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