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Posts Tagged ‘natural disasters’

BP’s top kill effort fails to plug Gulf oil leak

Posted by Admin on May 31, 2010

By BEN NUCKOLS | Posted: Sunday, May 30, 2010 12:06 am

The most ambitious bid yet to stop the worst oil spill in U.S. history ended in failure Saturday after BP was unable to overwhelm the gusher of crude with heavy fluids and junk. President Obama called the setback “as enraging as it is heartbreaking.”

The oil giant immediately began readying its next attempted fix, using robot submarines to cut the pipe that’s gushing the oil into the Gulf of Mexico and cap it with funnel-like device, but the only guaranteed solution remains more than two months away.

The company determined the “top kill” had failed after it spent three days pumping heavy drilling mud into the crippled well 5,000 feet underwater. It’s the latest in a series of failures to stop the crude that’s fouling marshland and beaches, as estimates of how much oil is leaking grow more dire.

The spill is the worst in U.S. history _ exceeding even the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster _ and has dumped between 18 million and 40 million gallons into the Gulf, according to government estimates.

“This scares everybody, the fact that we can’t make this well stop flowing, the fact that we haven’t succeeded so far,” BP PLC Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said Saturday. “Many of the things we’re trying have been done on the surface before, but have never been tried at 5,000 feet.”

Frustration has grown as drifting oil closes beaches and washes up in sensitive marshland. The damage is underscored by images of pelicans and their eggs coated in oil. Below the surface, oyster beds and shrimp nurseries face certain death. Fishermen complain there’s no end in sight to the catastrophe that’s keeping their boats idle.

News that the top kill fell short drew a sharply worded response from President Barack Obama, a day after he visited the Gulf Coast to see the damage firsthand.

“It is as enraging as it is heartbreaking, and we will not relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and shores are cleaned up, and until the people unjustly victimized by this manmade disaster are made whole,” Obama said Saturday.

In the days after the spill, BP was unable to use robot submarines to close valves on the massive blowout preventer atop the damaged well, then two weeks later ice-like crystals clogged a 100-ton box the company tried placing over the leak. Earlier this week, engineers removed a mile-long siphon tube after it sucked up a disappointing 900,000 gallons of oil from the gusher.

In the latest try, BP engineers pumped more than 1.2 million gallons of heavy drilling mud into the well and also shot in assorted junk, including metal pieces and rubber balls.

The hope was that the mud force-fed into the well would overwhelm the upward flow of oil and natural gas. But Suttles said most of the mud escaped out of the damaged pipe that’s leaking the oil, called a riser.

Suttles said BP is already preparing for the next attempt to stop the leak that began after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in April, killing 11 people.

The company plans to use robot submarines to cut off the damaged riser, and then try to cap it with a containment valve. The effort is expected to take between four and seven days.

“We’re confident the job will work but obviously we can’t guarantee success,” Suttles said of the new plan, declining to handicap the likelihood it will work.

He said that cutting off the damaged riser isn’t expected to cause the flow rate of leaking oil to increase significantly.

The permanent solution to the leak, a relief well currently being drilled, won’t be ready until August, BP says.

Experts have said that a bend in the damaged riser likely was restricting the flow of oil somewhat, so slicing it off and installing a new containment valve is risky.

“If they can’t get that valve on, things will get much worse,” said Philip W. Johnson, an engineering professor at the University of Alabama.

Johnson said he thinks BP can succeed with the valve, but added: “It’s a scary proposition.”

Word that the top-kill had failed hit hard in fishing communities along Louisiana’s coast.

“Everybody’s starting to realize this summer’s lost. And our whole lifestyle might be lost,” said Michael Ballay, the 59-year-old manager of the Cypress Cove Marina in Venice, La., near where oil first made landfall in large quantities almost two weeks ago.

Johnny Nunez, owner of Fishing Magician Charters in Shell Beach, La., said the spill is hurting his business during what’s normally the best time of year _ and there’s no end in sight.

“If fishing’s bad for five years, I’ll be 60 years old. I’ll be done for,” he said after watching BP’s televised announcement.

The top official in coastal Plaquemines Parish said news of the top kill failure brought tears to his eyes.

“They are going to destroy south Louisiana. We are dying a slow death here,” said Billy Nungesser, the parish president. “We don’t have time to wait while they try solutions. Hurricane season starts on Tuesday.”

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Online: http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/go/site/2931/

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Associated Press Writers Matthew Brown, Janet McConnaughey and Mary Foster in New Orleans and AP Radio correspondent Shelly Adler contributed to this report.

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Huge quake hits Chile – Tsunami threatens Pacific

Posted by Admin on February 27, 2010

Huge quake hits Chile – Tsunami threatens Pacific

By ROBERTO CANDIA and EVA VERGARA, Associated Press Writer – 58 mins ago

TALCA, Chile – A devastating earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, toppling homes, collapsing bridges and plunging trucks into the fractured earth. A tsunami set off by the magnitude-8.8 quake threatened every nation around the Pacific Ocean — roughly a quarter of the globe.

Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma said the most powerful quake to hit the country in a half-century killed at least 82 people, but the death toll was rising quickly.

In the town of Talca, just 65 miles (105 kilometers) from the epicenter, Associated Press journalist Roberto Candia said it felt as if a giant had grabbed him and shaken him.

The town’s historic center, filled with buildings of adobe mud and straw, largely collapsed, though most of those were businesses that were not inhabited during the 3:34 a.m. (1:34 a.m. EST, 0634 GMT) quake. Neighbors pulled at least five people from the rubble while emergency workers, themselves disoriented, asked for information from reporters.

Many roads were destroyed, and electricity, water and phone lines were cut to many areas — meaning there was no word of death or damage from many outlying areas.

In the Chilean capital of Santiago, 200 miles (325 kilometers) northeast of the epicenter, a car dangled from a collapsed overpass, the national Fine Arts Museum was badly damaged and an apartment building’s two-story parking lot pancaked, smashing about 50 cars whose alarms rang incessantly.

Experts warned that a tsunami could strike anywhere in the Pacific, and Hawaii could face its largest waves since 1964 starting at 11:19 a.m. (4:19 p.m. EST, 2119 GMT), according to Charles McCreery, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Tsunami waves were likely to hit Asian, Australian and New Zealandshores within 24 hours of the earthquake. The U.S. West Coast andAlaska, too, were threatened.

A huge wave swept into a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Islands, 410 miles (660 kilometers) off the Chilean coast, PresidentMichelle Bachelet said, but there were no immediate reports of major damage.

Bachelet had no information on the number of people injured. She declared a “state of catastrophe” in central Chile.

“We have had a huge earthquake, with some aftershocks,” she said from an emergency response center. She said Chile has not asked for assistance from other countries, and urged Chileans not to panic.

“The system is functioning. People should remain calm. We’re doing everything we can with all the forces we have. Any information we will share immediately,” she said.

Powerful aftershocks rattled Chile’s coast — 24 of them magnitude 5 or greater and one reaching magnitude 6.9 — the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

In Santiago, modern buildings are built to withstand earthquakes, but many older ones were heavily damaged, including the Nuestra Senora de la Providencia church, whose bell tower collapsed. A bridge just outside the capital also collapsed, and at least one car flipped upside down.

Several hospitals were evacuated due to earthquake damage, Bachelet said.

Santiago’s airport will remain closed for at least 24 hours, airport director Eduardo del Canto said. The passenger terminal suffered major damage, he told Chilean television in a telephone interview. TV images show smashed windows, partially collapsed ceilings and pedestrian walkways destroyed.

Santiago’s subway was shut as well and hundreds of buses were trapped at a terminal by a damaged bridge, Transportation and Telecommunications Minister told Chilean television. He urged Chileans to make phone calls or travel only when absolutely necessary.

Candia was visiting his wife’s 92-year-old grandmother in Talca when the quake struck.

“Everything was falling — chests of drawers, everything,” he said. “I was sleeping with my 8-year-old sonDiego and I managed to cover his head with a pillow. It was like major turbulence on an airplane.”

In Concepcion, 70 miles (115 kilometers) from the epicenter, nurses and residents pushed the injured through the streets on stretchers. Others walked around in a daze wrapped in blankets, some carrying infants in their arms.

Concepcion, Chile’s second-largest city, is 60 miles (95 kilometers) from the ski town of Chillan, a gateway to Andean ski resorts that was destroyed in a 1939 earthquake.

The quake also shook buildings in Argentina‘s capital of Buenos Aires, 900 miles (1,400 kilometers) away on the Atlantic side of South America.

Marco Vidal, a program director for Grand Circle Travel who was traveling with a group of 34 Americans, was on the 19th floor of the Crown Plaza Santiago hotel when the quake struck.

“All the things start to fall. The lamps, everything, was going on the floor,” he said. “I felt terrified.”

Cynthia Iocono, from Linwood, Pennsylvania, said she first thought the quake was a train.

“But then I thought, `Oh, there’s no train here.’ And then the lamps flew off the dresser and my TV flew off onto the floor and crashed.”

The quake struck after concert-goers had left South America’s leading music festival in the coastal city of Vina del Mar, but it caught partiers leaving a disco.

“It was very bad. People were screaming. Some people were running, others appeared paralyzed. I was one of them,” Julio Alvarez told Radio Cooperativa.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center called for “urgent action to protect lives and property” in Hawaii, which is among 53 nations and territories subject to tsunami warnings.

“Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated. It may have been destructive along coasts near theearthquake epicenter and could also be a threat to more distant coasts,” the warning center said. It did not expect a tsunami along the west of the U.S. or Canada.

The largest earthquake ever recorded struck the same area of Chile on May 22, 1960. The magnitude-9.5 quake killed 1,655 people and left 2 million homeless. The tsunami that it caused killed people in Hawaii,Japan and the Philippines and caused damage to the west coast of the United States.

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Eva Vergara reported from Santiago, ChileAssociated Press Television News cameraman Mauricio Cuevas in Santiago and AP writer Sandy Kozel in Washington contributed to this story.

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