To Alaskans who were here in 1989, the scene in the Gulf of Mexico looks familiar — the scrambling spill response, the booms, the fishermen, the relentless spread of the oil. The circumstances are not entirely the same, of course. The Exxon Valdez oil spill, North America's worst, was caused by a tanker run aground, not a rig explosion as happened with BP's Deepwater Horizon.
And the grounding didn't kill anyone on the Exxon Valdez. Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead after the Deepwater Horizon blast and sinking, and 17 were injured. Our thoughts and prayers go their families.
Now oil continues to pour at 5,000 barrels a day from the blown out well, and an environmental disaster is under way along the Gulf Coast, with abundant sea life, wildlife refuges, migratory birds and marshlands at stake.
Alaskans already have offered help in containing and cleaning up the oil. Alaskans know full well that the exercise now is damage control and the odds favor the oil, especially with wind driving crude-laden waves over protective boom and little chance of stanching the well's flow soon.
What do we take from this disaster? Lessons remain to be learned about just what went wrong, how and why.
But this much we know now: The Obama administration's against drilling in the North Aleutian Basin, near the richest salmon fishery in the world at Bristol Bay, looked wise last month and wiser now.
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