Oil company BP says oil is now flowing into a nearly two-kilometer-long tube meant to siphon oil away from a gushing well in the Gulf of Mexico.

This is the first measure of success BP has seen in stemming the flow of oil from a well pipe that ruptured in the explosion of a drilling rig April 20. The pipe has leaked hundreds of thousands of liters of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The new tube is drawing some of the oil up to a surface vessel. If things go smoothly, crew members will gradually increase the tube’s intake over the next few days. The first attempt at such an operation failed Saturday.

Meanwhile, researchers from the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology say they have detected enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf, indicating the spill could be far worse than previously estimated.

A New York Times report Saturday said scientists found multiple plumes of oil, including one as large as 16 kilometers long and nearly five kilometers wide.

The report said the oil is depleting oxygen in the water, and scientists worry that much of the sea life near the plumes will be killed.

As BP struggles to contain the leak, the U.S. government has demanded “immediate clarification” from the oil company on its commitment to pay for damage caused by the spill.

In a letter to BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the public “has a right to a clear understanding of BP’s commitment.”

The company has failed at previous efforts to contain the spill, but BP’s Hayward said Saturday he hopes the oil leak can be stopped in a week to 10 days.

VOA News – Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.

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