PENSACOLA, Florida — The BP oil slick drifted perilously close to the Florida Panhandle's famous sugar-white beaches Wednesday as a risky gambit to contain the leak by shearing off the well pipe ran into trouble a 1.6 kilometers under the sea when the diamond-tipped saw became stuck.
BP says it was about halfway done slicing through the pipe when the diamond-tipped saw snagged. The company said Wednesday night that it took 12 hours to free the saw and that preparations were underway to resume cutting.
The plan is to fit a cap on the blown-out well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico to capture most of the spewing oil; the twisted, broken pipe had to be sliced first to allow a snug fit.
As the edge of the slick drifted within 11 kilometers of Pensacola's beaches, emergency workers rushed to link the last in a kilometers-long chain of booms designed to fend off the oil. They were stymied by thunderstorms and wind before the weather cleared in the afternoon.