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Tropical weather could stall oil spill clean-up operations

A tropical wave that has drenched Puerto Rico, Haiti and the Virgin Islands could -- if it hits the site of the BP oil spill in the Gulf -- delay cleanup and well-closure efforts by as much as two weeks, the federal government said Wednesday.

``This is a significant issue,'' retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal point person for the cleanup, said. If severe weather arrived, the ships aiding in response efforts would have to be evacuated, Allen said, and ``some of these vessels move very slowly.'' The storm, which forecasters have given a better-than-even chance of building into Tropical Storm Bonnie, is headed in a west-northwest direction -- potentially bringing it to South Florida and, after that, the Gulf of Mexico.

But given the uncertainty of forecasts, there is also a chance the storm heads up the eastern seaboard, sparing both Florida and the Gulf.

BP's oil well has been plugged for close to a week by a containment cap, but that cap's progress is still being monitored day-to-day. The cap's lower-than-expected pressure readings have raised concerns about possible problematic leaks, but so far no significant leaks have been discovered.

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