Oil slick to spread along coastline

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Oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico could threaten the Mississippi and Alabama coasts this week, US forecasters said yesterday, as public anger surged over the country's worst environmental disaster.

Officials from BP and the US government warned that the blown-out deepwater well may not be shut off until August as the company begins preparations on a new attempt to contain the leak.

The London and New York stock exchanges were closed for public holidays yesterday, but BP shares traded in Frankfurt tumbled 7.6 per cent to €5.4 (£4.57) following news of the company's failure to halt the oil leak.

Although Louisiana's wetlands and fishing grounds have been the worst hit so far by the spill, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said moderate southerly and south-westerly winds this week may start moving oil closer to the Mississippi Delta.

"Model results indicate that oil may move north to threaten the barrier islands off Mississippi and Alabama later in the forecast period," the NOAA said. Mississippi and Alabama have escaped lightly so far, with only scattered tar balls and "oil debris" reaching their coasts.

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