No end in sight as Gulf oil spill hits Day 40

Saturday, May 29, 2010
By Paul Martin

By Tom Bergin and Ed Stoddard

NEW ORLEANS/VENICE, La., May 29 (Reuters) – The worst oil spill in U.S. history hit its 40th day on Saturday with Gulf residents clinging to the tenuous hope that BP’s complicated “top kill” operation will plug the gushing well.

The tricky maneuver started on Wednesday and involves pumping heavy fluids and other material into the well shaft to stifle the flow. BP (BP.L) had said repeatedly that it needed another 24 to 48 hours to know whether it would succeed, but backed off of giving time estimates on Saturday.

“The top kill operation continues and will carry on throughout the day today. We’re not putting any time constraints on the operation – it will progress as operations teams deem appropriate through the day today and longer if necessary,” company spokesman Tom Mueller said in an email.

Beleaguered Louisiana residents heard from President Barack Obama and BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward on separate visits to the Gulf coast on Friday as they tried to get a handle on a crisis damaging the credibility of both the government and BP.

Obama faced criticism that he responded too slowly to the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and assured Louisianians during his five-hour visit that they “will not be left behind” and that the “buck stops” with him.[nN28228296]

Hayward visited the site of the April 20 rig explosion that killed 11 workers and unleashed the oil, and said the energy giant needed up to two more days to determine if the top kill will stop the underwater gusher once and for all

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