Oil hitting Ala. beaches worst yet since spill

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. Crews were working hard Saturday morning to try to keep a giant oil sheen just a few miles away from reaching the shore.

Scientists have estimated that anywhere between about 40 million gallons to 109 million gallons of oil have gushed into the /*Gulf*/ since a drilling rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and triggering the worst /*oil spill*/ in U.S. history.

Experts say that the oil that is washing up on Alabama's shores was the heaviest since the rig explosion. The oily sheen covered the pass leading into Perdido Bay near the Alabama-Florida state lines.

Latest developments:

  • The beaches in /*Florida's Panhandle*/ were largely free of tar early Saturday - but signs of the fight against the spill were everywhere. Officials have said that two wide sections of the slick were just off the shoreline.
  • /*Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen*/, the /*Obama*/ administration's point man for the oil spill, said that since the leak began, 4 million gallons of crude have been siphoned off the ruptured well using tubes and caps. An additional 18 million gallons have been skimmed from the ocean surface, he said. The skimmed liquid is generally only 10 to 15 percent oil.
  • /*BP*/ has said it plans to boost its ability to directly capture oil gushing from the well by early next week. A semi-submersible drilling rig would capture and burn up to 420,000 gallons of oil daily. Once on board, the oil and gas collected from the well will be sent down a boom and burned at sea.
  • Federal officials are still reviewing BP's plan to build a new containment system designed to capture more oil and be more durable during hurricane season. Allen said the plan could be revised based on calculations of how much oil is spilling from the well.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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