This day in history: March 24, 1989

Exxon Valdez breaks open, spilling oil into the Prince William Sound.
4:03 | 03/20/19

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Transcript for This day in history: March 24, 1989
It's being called the worst oil spill ever in Alaska the supertanker Exxon Valdez loaded with nearly 53 million gallons of oil ran aground off the port of Valdez in southern Alaska the day and broke open. So far nearly eight and a half million gallons of oil have spilled into Prince William Sound. Here's Brian Rooney. The 11100 foot Exxon Valdez is still reported to be hard aground and losing oil off the coast of southern Alaska. Come Valdez so it. On channel calling it. The super tanker was carrying half a billion gallons a full load of Alaska crude oil it has lost more than eight million gallons but the leaks have virtually stopped. No injuries were reported among the crew of 27 but the Coast Guard said there was some concern about the ship breaking up. The tanker left port bell bees at the southern end of the Alaska pipeline early this morning headed for Long Beach, California. According to the Coast Guard the huge ship was maneuvering to avoid floating chunks of ice in the channel and headed into an area where it should not have gone. The Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bly reef which is clearly marked a navigational charts. Initial reports say the ship ruptured its covered tanks number 13 and five the so called slop tank and senator tank number five. The Coast Guard says wind is pushing a five mile long oil slick self into the main area of Prince William Sound. The Valdez is one of the newer super tankers and one of the largest under the American flag. Emergency cleanup crews were sent to the area immediately we will be doing everything we can't minimize the amount of oil in the water. And minimize the amount of shoreline that it touches they also have to be careful not to do anything to make about these shatter on the rocks. Prince William Sound is rimmed by wildlife and recreational areas so workers are rushing to unload the remaining oil onto a second tanker. In the next eighteen to 24 hours. Ironically the Exxon Baton Rouge is dumping oily Bilge water to take on the extra load. Brian Rooney ABC news. As cleanup crews try to contain the damage from today's oil spills some environmentalists are already saying we told you so here's Ned potter. This is the type of accident they argued over when the Alaska pipeline was built. Could we get oil from there without major mishap or were accidents inevitable. Conservationists say the risk was always Syria. This is just a matter of time when you trends port. Crude oil under adverse environmental conditions that you're going to have a disaster of this magnitude. When Orioles bills from a ship it spreads first along the surface of the water. Cleanup crews can try to contain it with floating barriers then siphon it off soak it up or use chemicals to break the oil down. But it will be hard to control today's bill which happened twenty miles from Valdez harbor in a rocky turbulent water way. Prince William Sound is the worst possible place for the spill to occur. Because of all the fisheries in the wildlife in the migratory birds and so forth and go through there. A colleges say if fish swim into the oil they can poison the whales and other animals that eat them. If birds try to catch the fish they may become coated in oil and lose their natural insulation against the cold. This is not the largest bill lever that happened at this oil well in the Gulf of Mexico ten years ago. A 140 million gallons were lost. In 1978. At this tanker the AMOCO PD's spilled 68 million gallons off the coast of France. But oil experts say this case is major two and Exxon is flying in equipment from as far away as England and Texas. And Exxon spokesman says this is a day everyone hoped would never comb. But since they knew it might emergency plans have been in place for years. Ned potter ABC news New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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