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The U.S. Coast Guard prepared to set fire Wednesday to portions of a growing oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico to keep the pool of crude away from sensitive ecological areas in the Mississippi River Delta.

Efforts to cap the well that was opened up last week when the Deepwater Horizon drill rig blew up and sank off Louisiana have been unsuccessful.

Eleven workers are still missing after the explosion; another 115 people were rescued.

Northwesterly winds drove the 80-mile-long slick back from Louisiana’s coast slightly Wednesday, and the Coast Guard planned to ignite a portion of the spilled oil sometime after 11 a.m. CT (noon ET).

“It’s a historically proven technique, and it has multiple preventative safety measures in place to ensure that that burn area remains controlled,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matt Moorlag, a Coast Guard spokesman.

The oil will be corralled by a specially designed boom before being set ablaze. The flames are expected to destroy between 50 percent to 90 percent of the section, and winds should blow the resulting cloud of smoke and soot out to sea, Moorlag said.

“We shouldn’t see any shoreline that sees that smoke,” he said.

The oil spill has the potential to become one of worst in U.S. history, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landrey said Tuesday. The well, about 50 miles off the mouth of the Mississippi River, is dumping about 42,000 gallons a day into the Gulf of Mexico.

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