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End to Gulf oil leak is welcomed by Obama

US President Barack Obama has welcomed the end of the devastating leak that wreaked environmental disaster along the Gulf of Mexico after it was finally plugged.

He described the successful “kill” of the blown-out BP well as a milestone in his administration's response to the disaster that leaked hundreds of millions of gallons of oil.

BP confirmed last night that a cement plug had permanently killed the leak in the well nearly 2.5 miles below the sea floor, five agonising months after an explosion sank a drilling rig and led to the worst offshore oil spill in US history.

The US government's manager of the catastrophe — Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen — said that tests show BP's well “is effectively dead” and poses no further threat.

Mr Obama said his administration remains committed to doing everything possible to ensure that the Gulf Coast recovers fully from the disaster.

The gusher was only contained in mid-July after a temporary cap was successfully fitted on top the well. Mud and cement were later pushed down through the top of the well, allowing the cap to be removed.

But the well could not be declared dead until a relief well was drilled so that the ruptured well could be sealed from the bottom, ensuring it never causes a problem again.

The April 20 blast killed 11 workers, and 206 million gallons of oil spewed out. The disaster caused an environmental and economic nightmare for people who live, work and play along hundreds of miles of Gulf shoreline from Florida to Texas.

It also spurred civil and criminal investigations, cost gaffe-prone BP chief Tony Hayward his job, and brought increased governmental scrutiny of the oil and gas industry, including a costly moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling that is still in place.

Gulf residents will be feeling the pain for years to come. There is still plenty of oil in the water, and some continues to wash up on shore.

Many people are still struggling to make ends meet with some waters still closed to fishing. Shrimpers who are allowed to fish are finding it difficult to sell their catch because of the perception that the seafood is not safe to eat. Tourism along the Gulf has also taken a hit.

The disaster also has taken a toll on the once mighty oil giant BP plc. The company's stock price took a nosedive after the explosion, though it has recovered.

And on the financial side, BP has already shelled out more than $8 billion in clean-up costs and promised to set aside another $20 billion for a victims compensation fund.

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