Florida's pristine coast braced for the impact of an oil slick from a Gulf of Mexico leak borne by powerful ocean currents as efforts by BP to capture the flowing crude showed progress.
According to private forecasters at AccuWeather, tendrils from the massive rust-coloured oil slick have already entered the powerful Loop Current curling around the Florida Peninsula, which could take it east to the Florida Keys and possibly to Miami and Cuba within eight to 10 days.
British oil giant BP has marked some progress at siphoning some of the oil from the 1.6-kilometre deep well to an ocean vessel on the surface.
BP is now siphoning about 3,000 barrels per day of oil, said Tom Strickland, an assistant interior secretary. BP declined to comment on Mr Strickland's new estimate, which is up from about 2,000 barrels a day that BP said it is capturing.
BP has estimated 5,000 barrels per day has been gushing out of the well since shortly after an April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 workers. US politicians and scientists say the figure is unreliable and probably much higher.