The full extent of pollution emanating from the rig lying at a depth of 1,300 metres was not clear. It is known to contain 1.5 million litres of crude and 1,200 cubic metres of diesel fuel.
Brazil's state-owned Petrobras company said it has sent 26 specially-equipped vessels to the accident site and has prepared 33 kilometres of floating barriers to catch oil on the water's surface.
Environmentalists warned that it was not at all certain whether the fuel would rise to the surface or descend to the ocean floor in clumps.
A Dutch team of salvage experts were waiting the go-ahead from Petrobras officials Wednesday to conduct underwater inspections of the wreck to determine how large the leak might be and the best means of plugging it.
Officials of the Dutch Smit Tak salvage company in Rotterdam said their experts were ready to head to the site of the sunken rig at any time.
The world's largest off-shore oil rig sank after a series of explosions last week that killed at least 10 workers. The P-36 platform, located 120 kilometres off the Brazilian coast, had listed for several days before becoming completely submerged.
A Senate committee has voted to launch an inquiry into the accident, in which Petrobas officials and oil industry experts would be forced to testify on the disaster and a series of other accidents that unions say have claimed 81 lives.
The oil rig is as tall as a 40-storey building and weighs 31,400 tons. It went down after efforts failed by Brazilian and Dutch experts to stabilize the structure.
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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 03/21/2001 06:47:47
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