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22 July 2010 Last updated at 11:58 ET Share this pageTwitter ShareEmail Print Tropical storm warning for site of BP oil spill
A tropical cyclone is likely to form BP workers in the Gulf of Mexico have stopped drilling a relief well and are preparing to evacuate the oil spill
site as a tropical depression nears.
There is a 20-30% chance of tropical storm force winds (39mph/63kph or more) at the spill site by Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center says.
Because of the slow-moving vessels at the spill site, evacuation plans are already well under way.
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Work on the relief well could be suspended for up to two weeks.
A "packer" - a plug used during storms - has been placed in the relief well to stabilise it.
The government's incident commander, Thad Allen, along with BP, must decide whether to leave the well shut during any storm, or to open it and allow
oil to gush out into the sea.
The tropical depression is over the Bahamas but is travelling west-northwest at 15mph. It could become a tropical storm later day. Storm warnings are
in force in the Bahamas and on much of the Florida coastline.
A reconnaissance flight is being sent to investigate the depression. There is a 5-10% chance that winds at the spill site could reach 58mph or more
Shell Oil has already begun to evacuate employees stationed out in the Gulf.
A US Coast Guard ship, the Decisive, is heading to the spill site. "It's a controlled chaos out there," Lt Patrick Montgomery told the Associated
The BP well is currently closed for an integrity test to see if there are weaknesses in the well or ruptures in the sea bed. The test was conditional
on close seismic, acoustic and visual monitoring - all of which would have to stop during the evacuation as ships and remote-operated vehicles moved
out of the potential path of the storm.
The first relief well is only 4ft from the damaged well horizontally, but more work needs to be done before it can be used for a "kill" to stop the
A final piece of casing needs to be cemented in place at the bottom of the relief well.
Once the weather improves, a "static" kill - pumping mud into the top of the well through the new cap - could be done as an intermediate measure. BP
and government experts are deciding whether this will take place.