Storm Over Caribbean Of Growing Concern In Oil Spill Efforts

A weather system over the Caribbean Sea is being watched closely by US officials hoping to soon permanently close the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.

Conditions were favourable for the system to turn into a tropical cyclone within the next 48 hours, the National Hurricane Centre in Miami said Wednesday. The system is currently bringing heavy rain to the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the island of Hispaniola, which includes Haiti and the Dominican Republic.Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is supervising the government response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, told reporters the weather was being monitored and could force the evacuation of ships involved in the siphoning and cleaning of oil.

That could delay efforts by some 10-14 days, he said.A weather monitoring plane was expected to fly into the system later Wednesday and would provide more clarity on the potential strength and path of any storm. Officials would need several days to evacuate the well area.BP last week managed to install a tight-fitting cap onto the well that had been leaking tens of thousands of barrels of oil a day into the ocean for nearly three month. BP and government scientists have been holding a tense vigil ever since to see whether the cap is holding without leaks.

Despite the progress, the well-cap is considered a temporary solution to the leak. BP is drilling relief wells in hopes of permanently sealing off the oil reservoir deep beneath the seabed.One of the relief wells is nearly complete, but a key piece of casing must be installed before BP can attempt to use it to close off the well in a procedure known as static kill. If weather does not interfere, that process could begin as early as the weekend, Allen said.

Tuesday marked three months since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rigexploded about 70 kilometres off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11 workers. The ensuing oil spill is by far the biggest in US history.




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