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May 3, 2010
Alarming photos of dead sea turtles washed ashore—as well as satellite images of an ever-spreading oil slick—demonstrate that a serious ordeal is ahead for the Gulf Coast. The April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused a spill that has spread more than 130 miles so far. The spill has reached land in Louisiana, and is expected to reach Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. If it continues, it will surpass the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill as the worst in history. Here's how you can help:
1. Want to lend a hand? Affected states allow you to register to volunteer online. Louisiana and Florida volunteers can register online, or Gulf Coast volunteers can call 1-866-448-5816. Oil Spill Volunteers is another registration site that matches up those willing to assist with the groups that need their help. Volunteer opportunities run the gamut from wildlife sitter to administrative support, so any and all help is appreciated.
2. Florida is calling on untrained volunteers to pick up trash on its beaches to minimize the impact of the spill once it hits land. Volunteers are asked to leave natural debris in place, though, as it provides shelter for birds and other animals. If you'd like to help out with areas where oil has already washed ashore, it is recommended that you contact a local group to be trained in how to handle oil-covered materials.
3. If you're in the Gulf Coast area and see a distressed animal, do not try to assist it on your own. Injured animals can be defensive and may try to bite you—also, crude oil can be harmful when it comes in contact with human skin. A hotline has been established for injured and dead animal sightings. Call 1-866-557-1401 to leave a message with the animal's precise location. iPhone users in the Gulf can download the Noah project's app to document distressed animals and the spill's impact on wildlife. Learn more about Noah here.