A man watches an oil slick wash up on a beach in California. Up to 2,500 barrels of petroleum gushed onto San Refugio State Beach and into the Pacific about 32 km west of Santa Barbara when an underground pipeline that runs along the coastal highway inexplicably burst.
As much as a fifth of the amount may have reached the ocean, leaving oil slicks that stretched for more than 15 km along the coast.
If the pipeline company's worst-case estimate of its oil release holds up, it would mark the biggest in the region since a 1969 offshore oil well blowout that dumped 80,000 to 100,000 barrels of crude petroleum into the Santa Barbara Channel and stands as the largest spill ever in California waters.
The cause of the rupture remained under investigation. The company said it had inspected the pipeline a few weeks ago, but results had not yet come back.