By Frank James
Early fears that the explosion, fire and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico would lead to an ecological disaster still hadn't come to pass and there were growing hopes that it wouldn't, at least of this writing early Friday evening.
But there was terrible news for the families of the eleven people missing after Tuesday's accident; the Coast Guard said it was calling off the search for the missing crew members. They are presumed dead, their bodies unrecoverable.
The lack of significant crude oil flowing into the gulf's waters was welcome news on a lot of levels, including that it would likely contain any political fallout from the accident in a way that would be much more difficult if the accident had resulted in a massive spill with the attendant environmental damage.
It made it easier for White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to talk on Friday, for instance, of President Barack Obama's continued support for offshore drilling.
The Associated Press reported Gibbs response to a reporter's question:
"I don't honestly think it opens up a whole new series of questions, because, you know, in all honesty I doubt this is the first accident that has happened and I doubt it will be the last," Gibbs said.
As for the continued response to the accident and the lack of a major spill, the AP reported:
As officials continued to search for what caused the blast, crews were making progress cleaning up oil from the explosion Tuesday, and trying to contain what spilled and prevent any threat to the coast's fragile ecosystem. The Coast Guard was also using an airplane, a helicopter and a Coast Guard cutter to continue looking for 11 missing workers even as hopes diminished that they survived.
Officials did receive good news Friday when Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said no oil appeared to be leaking from a well head at the ocean floor, nor was any leaking at the water's surface. But she said crews were closely monitoring the rig for any more crude that might spill out.
At midday Friday, at least half a dozen boats were visible with booms extended in loops, trapping a thin oil sheen that extended about 7 miles north of where the rig sank.
From the air, there was no sign the oil was affecting animal life in the area.
Strong winds were blowing generally from the south as a cold front approached from Texas. The passage of the front late Friday or Saturday was expected to shift winds to the north, which could push the sheen away from the coast.
categories: Accidents and Disasters