The Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Thad Allen, said that despite the siphoning, the spilled oil is spreading and now stretches from western Louisiana to Florida's Key West. The extent of the spill was straining even the substantial resources deployed for one of the worst ecological disasters in recent history, he said.
Allen said the approximately 20,000 people now working to prevent the spill from reaching land were struggling to deal with an environmental threat that he called "omni-directional and almost indeterminate" in size. He said federal disaster plans had been formulated to deal with far more localized spills.
"We're dealing with something that's more complicated than any spill I've ever dealt with," Allen told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. "The national system did not contemplate that we would have to do all of this at once."
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