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Ships evacuate spill site as Tropical Storm nears

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By Associated Press

ON THE GULF OF MEXICO (AP) — Engineers prepared to abandon their vigil over BP's broken oil well Friday as ships and rig workers evacuated the Gulf of Mexico ahead of Tropical Storm Bonnie.

The mechanical plug that's throttled the oil for a week will be left closed, even if the undersea robots monitoring the well's stability leave. The only way BP would know if the cap had failed would be satellite and aerial views of oil gushing to the surface.

But retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said he's confident the cap will hold, despite a few leaks that raised concerns last week. Scientists say even a severe storm shouldn't affect the plug, nearly a mile beneath the ocean surface 40 miles from the Louisiana coast.

Bonnie had maximum sustained winds near 40 mph Friday as it swirled about 80 miles south-southeast of Miami. A tropical storm watch was issued early Friday for the northern Gulf coast from Destin, Fla., to Morgan City, La., and the storm is on track to enter the Gulf of Mexico by the weekend.

The rough weather could delay by another 12 days the push to plug the broken well for good using mud and cement, Allen and BP officials conceded. Even if it's not a direct hit, the rough weather will push back efforts to kill the well by at least a week.


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