Giant box close to containing oil spill

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The Independent US

An unprecedented mission to the bottom of the sea to avert a wider environmental disaster progressed yesterday as crews said a 100-ton concrete-and-steel box was close to being placed over a blown-out well on the Gulf of Mexico floor to capture gushing oil.

The quest took on added urgency as oil reached several barrier islands off the Louisiana coast, many of them fragile animal habitats. Several birds were spotted diving into the oily, pinkish-brown water, and dead jellyfish washed up on the uninhabited islands.

Douglas Peake, the first mate of the supply boat that brought the box to the spill site, confirmed he received a radio transmission from the vessel lowering the device that said the device would soon be in position over the well .

The transmission said undersea robots were placing buoys around the main oil leak to act as markers to help to align the 40ft box. The box was about 4,000 feet underwater before dawn yesterday, with another 1,000 feet to go, Coast Guard Petty Officer Shawn Eggert said. Late on Thursday, a crane lowered the containment vessel designed to collect as much as 85 per cent of the oil spewing into the Gulf.

A separate mission was also imminent to reduce oil fumes on the rig drilling a relief well near the spill site.