BP scrambles to plug Gulf of Mexico leak

AN oil spillage of 1,000 barrels per day is leaking from BP’s well in the Gulf of Mexico, the US Coast Guard said, days after a deadly explosion sank the offshore Deepwater Horizon rig.

The energy giant was last night scrambling to plug the leak, which is emanating 5,000 feet beneath the surface of the sea. Its discovery – less than 48 hours after authorities said there was no oil spilling from the site – raises the prospect of environmental damage. It will also add to BP’s costs in the clean up operation.

Deepwater Horizon, which was moored 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana, erupted into flames last Tuesday after a series of spikes in pressure appeared to send oil rushing to the surface. Of the 126 workers on board, 17 were injured, three critically, and 11 were unaccounted for. The Coast Guard called off its search for survivors on Friday.

BP chief executive Tony Hayward on Saturday offered his condolences to the families of the 11 workers presumed dead in the “tragic accident”. Yesterday he vowed to throw BP’s full resources behind the team working to secure the well.

BP and Transocean, which owned the rig, have already been hit with several lawsuits by victims’ families.

A statement said the remnants of the capsized rig had been found on the sea floor 1,500 feet northwest of the well site. But surface efforts to clean up the oil spillage and block the leak were hampered by thunderstorms, rain and rough seas yesterday.

Washington is expected to announce an inquiry into the incident this week. The news overshadows BP’s first quarter results, which are tipped to show a 90 per cent surge in profits to £3.1bn tomorrow.