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Gulf oil spill fund boss vows to push through payouts

As new evidence emerged of a breakdown in safety procedures at the Deepwater Horizon rig, the administrator of BP's oil spill compensation fund vowed to speed up payouts to victims of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Do not underestimate the emotionalism, the frustration and the anger of people in the Gulf, uncertain of their financial future,” warned Kenneth Feinberg, the man appointed by the White House to run the $20bn fund.

He said the sheer scale of the emergency meant “we have got to err on the side of the claimant”.

Earlier, BP said the disaster, now into its 10th week, had already cost it $2bn. As of last night, the British company had paid out only $104m to claimants. In all, 64,000 demands have been submitted so far, totalling $600m. That pace will, however, only accelerate as oil continues to spew from the broken well-head.

BP said it collected 23,290 barrels-worth of leaking oil on Sunday — far below the US government's estimate that 60,000 barrels are being spilled into the ocean each day. No end is in sight until relief wells come into operation, probably in early August.

Mounting evidence that BP may have disregarded normal drilling safety requirements only added to the anger. Yesterday, the New York Times blamed the calamity on the absence of a second “shear ram”, which is intended to sever and seal a deep water pipeline.

Most oil rigs have two such devices in case the first fails, but no such back-up was available when the Deepwater Horizon's shear ram failed following an explosion that killed 11 workers on 20 April.

That theory appeared to dovetail with the account of Tyrone Benton, a rig worker who claimed a leak was found weeks before the disaster in one of two control pods directing the flow of hydraulic fluid. Both BP, the operator of the rig, and Transocean, the owner, were informed, Mr Benton told the BBC Panorama programme last night. Instead of shutting down the entire rig to carry out the necessary repairs, BP simply closed the faulty unit, it was alleged. That meant it was relying entirely on the other control pod to cope with problems at what some workers were already describing as “a nightmare well”.

BP says it has found no evidence of corner-cutting to save money.

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