Video: Progress cited in oil containment effort

  1. Transcript of: Progress cited in oil containment effort

    WILLIAMS: Good evening.

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Night after night here we keep talking about the pipe a mile under the water, the one they've now cut into, and the pipe they are trying again to cap. The one that's now spewing even more oil into the gulf. Well, tonight we thought we'd show you what we're talking about. This is how big it is, roughly the size of a New York City water main. Now picture this pipe pumping out all the oil the earth can muster from that well, moving up under immense pressure, fed by natural gas, to the surface to the tune of at least half a million gallons today, maybe 46 million gallons in all so far. No one's really sure. Again today we watched the underwater drama via those remote cameras, and again tonight officials are voicing optimism about this latest fix. Here's where this spill was a week ago, and here now is its position as of tonight. Notice more states to the east in its sights. We begin our coverage tonight with our chief environmental affairs correspondent Anne Thompson , in Louisiana . Anne , good evening.

    ANNE THOMPSON reporting: Good evening, Brian . Tonight BP is promising to be on the Gulf Coast for a very long time to clean up all the oil and to make right all the lives ruined by this spill. That could take years, but tonight BP may be a small step closer. Forty-five days into this environmental catastrophe, finally progress.

    Admiral THAD ALLEN (United States Coast Guard): We have just cut the riser pipe off the lower marine package.

    THOMPSON: Cutting the gushing riser pipe proved arduous. A diamond wire saw got stuck halfway through the 19 1/2-inch pipe, delaying the process for a day. This morning robots used a pair of giant shears that released enormous plumes of oil and left a jagged edge, forcing engineers to use a less than ideal containment cap.

    Adm. ALLEN: The amount of oil that might get through that seal is something we're just going to have to determine as they -- as they put this thing down over the riser pipe and get the best fit they can.

    THOMPSON: Speaking from BP 's Houston control center, CEO Tony Hayward called the development a milestone, even though it could increase the flow of oil.

    Mr. TONY HAYWARD: The next 12 to 24 hours will give us an indication of how successful this attempt will be.

    THOMPSON: Even if it works, Hayward says BP will add a second containment system next week. The oil's impact could soon stretch beyond the gulf. Computer models today from the Center of Atmospheric Research show if the oil gets into the loop current it could be on Florida's Atlantic coast in just weeks and travel all the way past Cape Hatteras , North Carolina , potentially devastating more of America 's coastline. Anne Thompson , NBC News, Venice, Louisiana.

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