Following the explosion of a BP-operated rig, an oil slick has begun washing up on the Louisiana coast and is threatening three other states.
Up to 5,000 barrels of oil a day are gushing into the sea. The oil slick is moving towards the coast line and communities are waiting to find out how it will affect them.
BBC News website readers discuss their concerns as they wait for news.
Saturday 1 May:
CAPTAIN KATHY WILKINSON, GAUTIER, MISSISSIPPI
I own and operate boat tours of the Pascagoula River swamp and marsh. This oil spill has given me the most sickening feeling. We are just waiting for the thing to hit and wondering how it will affect us.
My business already seems to have been affected. I usually have several phone calls a day but none so far. I have nothing booked for the weekend, which is unusual.
If it's the magnitude they're predicting, it could be the end of life as we know it here on the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast, at least until the spill is completely cleaned up. It breaks my heart to think of all the marine life and birds that will no doubt be affected by this disaster.
My husband operates a non-profit making venture cleaning marine debris from the rivers of coastal Mississippi. We've signed up for various volunteer efforts but we feel helpless and useless. We're sitting waiting for a disaster. I don't mean to sound alarmist but I'm expecting the worst while trying to stay hopeful for the best.
There is no way of knowing at this point how far the oil will reach and whether it will penetrate our protected sands and estuaries. We do not know what effect it will have on the environment, on tourism and on our quality of life. It's a really scary thing.
ASHLEIGH COX, MOBILE, ALABAMA
I own a seafood restaurant with my husband. We can smell oil in the air. Our local fishermen who supply the restaurant tell us that we will most likely be out of business for the next couple of weeks. No new fish have been caught.
There are no tourists coming in spending time or money in the oil covered waters. This will be a huge blow to our personal income and local economy so close to the summer months and vacation time.
We set up our restaurant about a year ago from scratch. Every two days we have fishermen coming in from Louisiana, Alabama and Florida and they sell to us directly. We pick and choose what we want. Fisherman are telling me they're not exactly sure how they're going to make money this season. The government has told us that we can start fishing earlier but the fishermen don't think that will really help.
A friend who has a hotel, says she has only half her rooms booked for the entire month of June and normally she is fully booked.
We're expecting traces of the oil slick to hit our area in about a week. It shouldn't be too thick but it might be enough to prevent tourists coming. I think that's the problem we have, tourists will cancel their trips for fear of the beaches being ruined.
JO-ANN BINGEL, ORANGE BEACH
Our community is dependent upon charter fishing and tourism. The captains are terrified of how this will affect their economy. At the moment, we're all just sitting and waiting for the slick to hit us.
The atmosphere here is very tense, it's a bit like the wait before a hurricane hits. People are subdued whereas normally, we're a pretty upbeat bunch.
We know a couple of people who own restaurants and they are worried about their businesses. If tourists stop visiting, then the restaurants will be hit.
So far, over a hundred captains have volunteered their boats to help with the clean-up operation.
DR ISTVAN BERKELEY, LAYFAYETTE, LOUISIANA
Here in Lafayette, a few miles inland, yet one of the main hubs of the oil industry, the leak, or "The Black Tide", as people are calling it, is a major topic of discussion.
People are saying things like "It is Armageddon in slow motion", and, of course comparing the situation to Katrina and Rita.
The major fears here concern the seafood. We ate shrimp last night just because we don't know when we will see them again.
People were ordering both shrimp and oysters in large amounts last night in restaurants. This is because there is a genuine concern that these foods will just disappear (they are huge local favourites).
The other concern comes from the potential knock-on effects upon the oil and gas industry. Oil is a very important factor in our local economy.
Any reduction in activity in the Gulf has a broad economic impact. There are also concerns about the impact on tourism. The State economy is already in a tricky position, with major cuts coming in this year in areas such as higher education.
Should the "Black Tide" impact several of our major economic sectors, the prospects for the State could be very bleak indeed. It really is a mess. We are just hoping for some good news soon.