Obama urges tourism to aid Gulf economy post-spill

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President Obama has urged Americans to "come on down and visit" Florida to help revive the economy stricken by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Mr Obama said oil was no longer flowing into the Gulf but "our job is not finished and we are not going anywhere until it is."

The president is visiting Florida with his wife and elder daughter.

On Friday, US incident commander Adm Thad Allen said work would continue to seal the leaking well for good.

The president paid tribute to the US Coast Guard and others who had "toiled day and night" to plug the leak.

'Clean, open, safe'

He urged Americans to take their holidays in Florida, saying: "As a result of the clean-up effort, the beaches are clean, open and safe."

Tourism is one of the mainstays of the Florida economy. This year, however, much of the coastline is deserted, says the BBC's Andy Gallacher in Miami.

The dramatic drop in tourists is down to a perception that all the beaches along the Florida panhandle, as it is known, are coated in oil, our correspondent says, even though that is not the case.

Mr Obama said he would maintain the pressure on BP to pay out compensation claims from the $20bn (£12.8bn) fund set up for that purpose.

Image caption,
The Obamas are taking a brief holiday in the Florida panhandle

Any delay was "unacceptable", he said, especially for those who had lost their sole source of income as a result of the spill.

Meanwhile, BP will get the go-ahead to finish sealing the blown-out well, Adm Allen has said.

However, he wants further tests completed before drilling on the relief well resumes.

BP has said its "static kill" procedure, in which mud and cement were pumped into the top of the well, has worked.

But Adm Allen said it was not clear whether that plug that had formed was enough to block the damaged well permanently, and he wants work on the relief well to continue.

Drilling has been suspended because of bad weather in the Gulf of Mexico.

Once all the tests have been completed, it will take 96 hours (four days) before drilling can resume.

That means the relief well will not be completed before next weekend at the earliest.

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