Empty beaches and canceled plans as oil spill hits California - Reuters News Agency

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Empty beaches and canceled plans as oil spill hits California

A large oil spill off the southern California coast was described as an “environmental catastrophe” by the mayor of Huntington Beach on Sunday, as the breach of an oil rig pipeline left dead fish and birds strewn on the sand and offshore wetlands clogged with oil.

Now beaches are empty and an airshow has been canceled.

An estimated 126,000 gallons, or 3,000 barrels, had spread into an oil slick covering about 13 square miles of the Pacific Ocean since it was first reported on Saturday morning.. The beachside city, about 40 miles south of Los Angeles, was bearing the brunt of the spill.

The spill was caused by a breach connected to the Elly oil rig and stretched from the Huntington Beach Pier down to Newport Beach, a stretch of coast popular with surfers and sunbathers.

The oil rig was operated by Beta Offshore, a California subsidiary of Houston-based Amplify Energy Corporation.

Amplify Energy CEO Martyn Willsher said at a press conference in Long Beach that the pipeline had now been shut off and remaining oil suctioned out. He said divers were still trying to determine where and why the spill occurred.

Oceana, an ocean conservation group, called for an end to offshore oil and gas drilling.

Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s chief policy officer, said in a statement: “This is just the latest tragedy of the oil industry. It’s well past time to prevent future oil spills by permanently protecting our coasts from offshore drilling.”

The U.S. Coast Guard, working with local and state agencies, flew airplanes to assess the spill and had hired contractors to clean it up.

Officials said they were investigating the cause of the spill and the type of oil involved.

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