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Final test due on Gulf oil well

A pressure test on the blown-out BP well in the Gulf of Mexico is set to be finished, the last step needed before the ruptured well can finally be declared dead.

There was no word from company or government officials on whether the test had started as scheduled or when officials would say that the well had been permanently sealed, though the milestone was expected to be reached soon.

The test involves engineers exerting 15,000lbs of weight against the cement plug to make sure it will not move. They will also exert 1,150lbs per square inch of pressure.

Sealing the well is an important step for the still-weary Gulf Coast residents, yet the disaster is far from over. Those who rely on the Gulf for their livelihoods are left to rebuild amid the businesses destroyed by once-oil-stained shorelines and fishing grounds. Even where the seafood is safe, fishermen struggle to sell it to consumers fearful that it's toxic.

News that the blown-out well would soon be dead brought little comfort to people like Sheryl Lindsay, who owns Orange Beach Weddings, which provides beach ceremonies on Alabama's coast.

She said she lost about 240,000 dollars (£153,590) in business as nervous brides-to-be cancelled their weddings all summer long and even into the remainder of the year. So far, she has only received about 29,000 dollars (£18,560) in BP compensation.

"I'm scared that BP is going to pull out and leave us hanging with nothing," Ms Lindsay said.

The Gulf well spewed 206 million gallons of oil until the gusher was first stopped in mid-July with a temporary cap. Mud and cement were later pushed down through the top of the well, allowing the cap to be removed.

The tragedy began April 20, when an explosion killed 11 workers, sank a drilling rig and led to the worst offshore oil spill in US history.

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