Authorities are scrambling on Monday to contain the fallout from a weekend oil spill off the coast of southern California that has already resulted in a massive toll for the region's birds and fish and is continuing to contaminate fragile wetlands.
Several Orange County beaches remain closed amid the massive clean-up effort as oil continues to wash ashore, and the typically salty crisp ocean breeze instead reeks of oil.
Authorities have estimated that roughly 126,000 gallons of oil, or 3,000 barrels, seeped into coastal waters after the spill was first detected on Saturday morning off the coast of Huntington Beach in what marks one of the largest oil spills in California history.
An oil slick now covers about 13 square miles in the Pacific, according to Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr, who said during a news conference on Sunday that the spill is an "environmental catastrophe."
"At this time, we have not received confirmation that the leak has been completely capped," she said during an interview with the MSNBC television network later Sunday. "This is going to be a big hit for our community."
Officials have deployed over 2,000 feet (610 meters) of a protective boom on top of the ocean's surface in an attempt to contain its spread, and have identified the source of the leak to an oil pipeline, according to the mayor.
The leak appears to have occurred in a segment of the pipeline that connects an oil platform known as Elly to the Port of Long Beach, one of the busiest on the west coast. Elly and a connected oil drilling platform known as Ellen are owned by Amplify Energy Corp.
The company said all of its operations at the site have been shut down. Its stock nosedived by some 45% on Monday.
There is growing concern over the impact that the spill will have on the region's typically pristine habitats.
Oil has been found in the ecologically sensitive nature reserve known as the Talbert Marsh, which is home to dozens of species of birds, according to the Los Angeles Times newspaper. Some birds and fish have already been found dead, officials said.
An exact toll has yet to be established./aa