In a rare win in the ongoing struggle to cap the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, technicians on Thursday sliced off a key pipe gushing oil. Now the hope is it can be capped, and the flow can stop.
One obstacle is that shears had to be used to cut the pipe after a diamond-tipped saw became stuck halfway through the job. That means the cut is jagged, making capping it that much more difficult.
"We'll have to see when we get the containment cap on it just how effective it is," said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man for the disaster. "It will be a test and adapt phase as we move ahead, but it's a significant step forward."
This procedure is risky because until the cap can be lowered later Thursday, even more oil is flowing out of the pipe -- as much as 20% more. And even then, the cap may not stop the flow.
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"I don't think we'll know until the containment cap is seated on there," Allen said. "We'll have to wait and see."
Meantime, the White House announced President Obama will visit the Gulf region on Friday -- his third trip there since the oil rig exploded on April 20. Obama has been dogged by accusations that his reaction to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history has not been aggressive enough. Upwards of 19,000 barrels of oil are leaking into the Gulf every day.