A cap placed over a leaking oil well is believed to be slowing the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, even as the enormous spill continues to spread. President Barack Obama says he will fight alongside Gulf communities until the crisis is over.
U.S. Coast Guard officials say the cap may be collecting between one-quarter and one-half of the leaking oil.
Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is leading the government's response, said Saturday the cap collected almost one million (954,000) liters of oil on Friday, its first full day of use. The government estimates that that is about a half-percent to one percent of the total oil that has leaked in the six weeks since an oil rig exploded on April 20, killing eleven workers.
The spill, which resulted from the blast off the coast of the state of Louisiana, has extended hundreds of kilometers to the east, reaching the state of Florida.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama says he will do what he can to help people recover after losing their livelihoods in the disaster. "It is brutally unfair. It is wrong. And what I told these men and women, and what I have said since the beginning of this disaster, is that I am going to stand with the people of the Gulf Coast until they are made whole," he said.
The president recorded his weekly address late Friday from a fishing bait shop in the coastal town of Grand Isle, Louisiana. He met there with federal, state and local officials, and with people who are suffering because of the disaster. "Folks like Floyd Lasseigne, a fourth-generation oyster fisherman. This is the time of year when he ordinarily earns a lot of his income. But his oyster bed, along the north side of Grand Isle, has likely been destroyed by the spill," he said.
Mr. Obama made his third visit to the Gulf Coast, and his second in a week, as he faced a barrage of criticism for his handling of the crisis.
The president said the oil company BP, which is responsible for the spill, will pay "every single dime" owed to the people in the region. And he said a massive effort is underway to fight the disaster. "I have authorized the deployment of 17,000 National Guard (state militia) troops to aid in the response. More than 20,000 people are currently working around the clock to protect waters and coastlines. We have convened hundreds of top scientists and engineers from around the world. More than 1,900 vessels are in the Gulf, assisting in the cleanup," he said.
Mr. Obama said BP has made progress in containing the oil, but the leak will not stop until the company has finished drilling relief wells, which is expected in August.
The government has sent BP a $69 million bill for the first costs relating to the spill.
The president is scheduled to meet in the coming week with the families of the eleven workers who were killed when the oil rig exploded on April 20.