A flotilla of nearly 200 boats tackled a massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday, taking advantage of calm weather to intensify the fight to reduce the spill and limit its impact on the U.S. shoreline.

Energy giant BP PLC, under heavy pressure in Washington, struggled to plug a gushing undersea leak that threatened to wreak havoc on Gulf Coast fishing and tourism and reshape the U.S. political debate on offshore drilling.

Calmer seas after days of high winds aided one of the biggest oil containment operations ever attempted.


Boats were laying down and repairing miles of boom lines strung along Gulf shores to try to fend off and contain a drifting slick estimated to be at least 130 miles by 70 miles in size.

Weather forecaster Accuweather.com said favorable winds and waves could keep the slick from reaching the Gulf coastline for a few more days or longer.

“With the conditions turning better and better, it’s encouraging,” Coast Guard Petty Officer Mat-thew Schofield said from the Joint Information Center in Roberts, La.

The leak, still weeks or months away from being stopped, threatens to eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez catastrophe in Alaska, the worst previous U.S. oil spill to date.

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