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Obama tribute to oil spill victims

President Barack Obama has paid tribute to the 11 men killed in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy.

Obama also thanked the thousands of responders who "worked tirelessly to mitigate the worst impacts" of the oil spill and said that while workers have "made significant progress, the job isn't done".

He added that his administration will continue to hold BP, which leased the rig, and other parties "fully accountable for the damage".

The president also promised continued monitoring of Gulf seafood to ensure its safety, as well as "aggressive new reforms for offshore oil production".

Meanwhile, relatives of the 11 men who died aboard the oil rig will mark the anniversary with a flyover where it happened.

On land, vigils are also being held in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to mark the spill.

On the night of April 20, 2010, the rig operated by Transocean, burst into flames as it was drilling a well, killing 11 workers on or near the drilling floor. The rest of the crew evacuated, but two days later the rig toppled into the Gulf and sank to the sea floor. The bodies were never recovered.

Over the next 85 days, 206 million gallons of oil - 19 times more than the Exxon Valdez spilled - spewed from the well. In response, the nation commandeered the largest offshore fleet of vessels since D-Day, and BP spent billions of dollars cleaning up the mess, saving itself from collapse.

"I can't believe tomorrow has been one year because it seems like everything just happened," Courtney Kemp, whose husband Roy Wyatt Kemp was killed on the rig, wrote on her Facebook page on Wednesday. "I have learned a lot of things through all of this but the most important is to live each day as if it were your last ... what matters is if you truly live."

Transocean invited up to three members of each family to attend the flyover. They are expected to circle the site a few times in a helicopter, though there is no visible marker identifying where their loved ones perished. At the bottom of the sea, 11 stars were imprinted on the well's final cap.

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From Belfast Telegraph