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Storm Puts Oil Spill Cleanup on Hold

Officials say cleanup work related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been put on hold because of a tropical weather system moving through the area.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center has issued a tropical storm warning for the Gulf coast region. Forecasters say a tropical depression moving through the area could strengthen to a tropical storm by later Wednesday, bringing rain, wind and a meter-high storm surge.

A spokesman for the government/BP joint response team, Bob Donaldson, said Wednesday that beach cleanup operations in the Gulf also have been suspended because of the threat of lightening and other storm conditions. Donaldson said operations could resume late Thursday at the earliest.

National Incident Commander Thad Allen said Tuesday the storm could delay by several days all work on the relief well, which is the final solution to permanently sealing the ruptured oil well. Allen said he now expects the last segment of the relief well will be completed between Sunday and Tuesday of next week.

BP said Monday it has spent $6 billion in response to the massive oil spill. It said those costs include claims paid to Gulf residents, relief well drilling, containment efforts and the procedure that sealed the top of the well.

The April 20 explosion on the rig operated by BP killed 11 people and ruptured the well, sending millions of barrels of oil into the water, polluting the region's waters and much of the Gulf Coast shoreline. The well was fitted with a temporary cap in mid-July.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.