Tar balls from the BP oil spill have reached Texas beaches as rough seas continued Tuesday to disrupt the clean-up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico, dpa reported.
In London, the British government was preparing contingency plans for a possible collapse or break-up of the company, according to media reports, after BP has spent more than 3 billion dollars in fighting the 78-day-old gusher.
The arrival of the first tar globs in the water off Galveston County in south-eastern Texas means all five US states along the Gulf of Mexico coast are now experiencing ecological damage from the oil spill.
Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, commander of the clean-up operations, told reporters in a telephone press conference Tuesday that rough seas continued to make it impossible for oil skimmer boats to return to work.
Smaller boats have been grounded for more than a week as hurricane Alex swept into the Texas and Mexico coasts. The storm was mostly spent by Thursday, but bad weather, heavy rains and gusting winds hovered over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and were sending heavy seas across the Gulf of Mexico to the site of the drill rig disaster, Allen said.
US officials confirmed late Monday that the tar globs found in water off Galveston were traced to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Crews collected about 132 litres of matter, including 26 litres of tar balls, on the Bolivar Peninsula and on East Beach, popular tourist destinations long known for pristine beaches.
It remains unclear how the dime-sized to nickel-size tar balls arrived on Crystal Beach about 640 kilometres west of the source of the spill. Since the remnants are slightly weathered, they may have been transported on a vessel, officials said.
Since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank on April 20, most of the oil contaminating the Gulf has spread eastward on currents.
In Britain, the spill has provoked worries of a financial nature, since BP shares represent a major holding in British pension plans.
BP share prices have fallen lower than half their value from before the disaster, but they rose on Tuesday amid signs of Libyan interest in buying up BP shares.
Speculation over the past days also has focussed on potential investors such as the Kuwaiti Investment Authority, Abu Dhabi and Qatar. China's PetroChina, the US oil giant Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell are also being touted as chief candidates for a possible takeover bid.