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Page last updated at 21:47 GMT, Friday, 30 April 2010 22:47 UK

Fears of 'oil Katrina' in Louisiana

By Andy Gallacher
BBC News, Louisiana

A Louisiana Heron flies above the fragile wetlands near the town of Venice, in the path of the oil spill
There are fears that the spill could damage Louisiana's delicate wetlands

People on Louisiana's Gulf Coast are already comparing the impending disaster that could be unfolding here with Hurricane Katrina.

Back then residents across this region felt that the George W Bush administration severely let them down, and many are waiting to see what the response will be this time.

President Barack Obama has now pledged to use all the resources of the federal government to tackle the oil slick, which is now lapping up against Louisiana's shoreline and threatening three other states, and a huge co-ordinated effort is now under way.

The US Navy is here, Louisiana's governor has asked for money to deploy thousands of National Guard troops, and a team of senior government officials are now here to survey the ever-expanding oil slick.

"We've got to jump in and assist and we've got to work as a team, this is a horrible catastrophe," said Billy Nungesser, the president of the Plaquemines Parish area, which was taking the first brunt of the oil slick.

"To do nothing is not our character and to try and cleaning up in the marsh will be too little too late. This could be several months of oil coming ashore and we've got to prepare ourselves for that and go to work."

Mr Nungesser said those local fishermen here, who depend on this coastline for their livelihoods, are keen to get involved. More than anyone else they know these waters well.

Weather 'not helping'

There is the distinct smell of oil in the air as boat crews continually come in and out of a tiny harbour.


The real thick oil. They had all the skimmers there getting it off but - with the wind and the currents - they can't get it all
Kevin Beach, local fisherman

Fisherman Kevin Beach has seen the slick for himself.

"Its bad, it's not good. Crude oil on the surface all over the place. You can smell it from a way off, the smell was real strong.

"The real thick oil. They had all the skimmers there getting it off but - with the wind and the currents - they can't get it all," Mr Beach said.

The states of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida are also now under threat, and the weather is not helping things. Strong winds are pushing the crude oil over hastily constructed booms, threatening the delicate wetlands across Louisiana.

If the oil reaches these fragile islands and barrier marshes, it will be extremely difficult to clean up, although the final impact of this spill is difficult to predict.



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