Caribbean officials worry oil spill may reach pristine shores
BRIDGETOWN, Barabdos (AFP) -- Caribbean officials voiced worry Thursday at the prospect of the mammoth Gulf of Mexico oil spill reaching their islands' famously pristine beaches, in a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
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 -- 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, tourism-dependent shores.
Fresh US government figures released Thursday showed 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 -- darkening the specter of what is already the worst oil spill in US history.
Clinton, here to meet her Caribbean counterparts and other regional leaders, admitted meanwhile that "our understanding of and preparation for dealing with a disaster like this is out of date."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, Clinton said 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 a mile (1.6 kilometers) 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.
June 11, 2010