Blown-out Gulf well to be sealed by Sunday

NEW ORLEANS The final sealing would come nearly five months after a rig explosion set off the disaster in the /*Gulf of Mexico*/.

Allen told reporters on Wednesday that a relief well is expected to intersect with the busted well within 24 hours. He said that mud and cement will then be pumped in, which is expected to seal the well within four days.

"We are within a 96-hour window of killing the well," Allen said.

Also at the briefing, an official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that monitoring continues of the oil that remains in the /*Gulf*/. And that 50 percent of the oil that spilled is gone from the water system.

However, scientists found thick patches of oil coating the sea floor earlier this week. Testing is under way this week for chemical fingerprints to conclusively link that oil to the /*BP*/ spill.

Despite this, Allen reassured diners from outside the region that Gulf seafood is safe to eat.

Latest developments:

  • Gulf shrimpers are currently only producing 20 percent of their normal production for this time of year - because demand is down sharply and because supply is not where it should be in part due to the fact that some shrimpers are wary of taking on the expense of fishing if they can't sell their catch.
  • Allen said he plans to step down as incident commander on Oct. 1. He will be replaced by Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft. Allen had said previously that he would transition out of his current role by late September or early October.
  • Outgoing BP chief /*Tony Hayward*/ will be replaced also on Oct. 1 by American Bob Dudley.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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