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Gulf Oil Spill Team Watching Tropical Weather System


Officials working to contain the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are carefully watching a tropical weather system forming in the Caribbean Sea.

U.S. forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said Friday the low pressure system is currently located between Honduras and the Grand Cayman Islands, and is drifting slowly northwest towards the Gulf.

They say there is an excellent chance it could become a tropical storm - with winds up to 34 kilometers per hour - in the next 48 hours.

In a televised interview on the U.S. Cable News Network (CNN) Friday, U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said any tropical weather in the region is cause for concern. He said the response team would need five days notice to move their vessels out of harm's way once gale force winds of more than 34 kilometers per hour are forecast.

The U.S. government reports more than 6,200 vessels are currently responding to the spill, working to clean, contain or recover the leaking oil.

Oil company BP says it has so far spent $2.35 billion responding to the oil spill in the Gulf.

The London-based company released the new number Friday, saying it includes $126 million in payments to those impacted by the spill.

Earlier this week, an undersea robot bumped and temporarily dislodged the cap over the leaking oil well, allowing oil to spew freely into the water for most of the day Wednesday. The cap was replaced later that same day.

Meanwhile, a federal judge on Thursday denied a request by the Obama administration to overturn a judicial ruling that allows oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Obama administration had imposed a six-month moratorium on all deepwater drilling following the massive oil spill in the Gulf. But U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman blocked the ban earlier this week, saying the government assumed all deepwater oil rigs were in danger because one exploded.

The government can still appeal the judge's order.

U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the ban May 27 following the explosion and fire that killed 11 people on a drilling platform and caused the massive, ongoing oil spill in the Gulf.

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