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'Top kill' to stop Gulf oil spill in 'very critical' stage: US official

Coast Guard's Thad Allen says Friday through Saturday morning is a pivotal time for the top kill procedure, which aims to cap the well feeding the Gulf oil spill. President Obama, in Louisiana, says he is tripling the clean-up manpower in areas where oil is on shore.

President Barack Obama, LaFourche Parish president Charlotte Randolph, and US Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, National Incident Commander for the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, look at booms laid out to collect oil during a tour of areas impacted by the Gulf Coast oil spill, Friday. Allen says that the next day will be a critical time for the so-called top kill procedure.

Evan Vucci/AP

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With the "top kill" timeline stretching on amid what one US official calls a "very critical" period, President Obama said Friday he will send reinforcements to the Gulf Coast within 24 hours to help deal with the massive BP oil spill.

His plan calls for tripling the manpower in places where oil has already hit shore or is expected to arrive within 24 hours. The president, in Louisiana for an update on containment and cleanup efforts, says the added manpower will help corral the spill more quickly and minimize the amount of time oil is on the coastline.

Regarding the top kill procedure, which is aimed at staunching the flow of crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon well 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen struck a more cautious note Friday than he had previously on the headway oil giant BP is making.

After Allen said Thursday that the operation had squeezed the runaway flow of oil, BP acknowledged that on Wednesday night engineers had stopped the flow of drilling mud meant to cork the well. Their concern was a buildup of pressures in the blowout preventer on the ocean floor, which is the piece of equipment that attaches the live well to a crumpled "riser" pipe left after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank on April 22, killing 11 workers.

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