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METAIRIE, La.-- BP sliced off a pipe with giant shears Thursday in the latest bid to curtail the worst oil spill in U.S.history, but the cut was jagged and placing a cap over the gusherwill now be more challenging.

BP turned to the shears after a diamond-tipped saw became stuckin the pipe halfway through the job, yet another frustrating delayin the six-week-old Gulf of Mexico spill.

The cap will be lowered and sealed over the leak, said CoastGuard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man for the disaster.It won't be known how much oil BP can siphon to a tanker on thesurface until the cap is fitted, but the irregular cut means itwon't fit as snugly as officials hoped.

'We'll have to see when we get the containment cap on it justhow effective it is,' Allen said. 'It will be a test and adaptphase as we move ahead, but it's a significant step forward.'

Even if it works, BP engineers expect oil to continue leakinginto the ocean.

The next chance to stop the flow won't come until two reliefwells meant to plug the reservoir for good are finished in August.

BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward promised the company would cleanup every drop of oil, and 'restore the shoreline to its originalstate.'

'We will be here for a very long time. We realize this is justthe beginning,' Hayward said Thursday.

This latest attempt to control the spill, the so-calledcut-and-cap method, is considered risky because slicing away asection of the 20-inch-wide riser removed a kink in the pipe, andcould temporarily increase the flow of oil by as much as 20percent.

Hayward conceded the attempt was risky, but said the risk wasreduced when the pipe was cut away.

Live video footage showed oil spewing uninterrupted out of thetop of the blowout preventer, but Allen said it was unclear whetherthe flow had increased.

'I don't think we'll know until the containment cap is seatedon there,' he said. 'We'll have to wait and see.'

President Barack Obama will return to the Louisiana coast Fridayto assess the latest efforts, his third trip to the region sincethe April 20 disaster. It's also his second visit in a week.

The White House said the federal government was sending BP a $69million bill for costs so far in the spill. Spokesman Robert Gibbssaid the bill was the first to be sent to the oil company, whichleased the rig that exploded April 20 and sank two days later.Eleven people were killed.

So far, anywhere between 21 million and 46 million gallons ofoil has spewed into the Gulf, according to government estimates.

Computer models show oil could wind up on the East Coast byearly July, and even get carried on currents across the AtlanticOcean, by Bermuda and toward Europe. The models showed oil enteringthe Gulf's loop current, the going around the tip of Florida and asfar north as Cape Hatteras, N.C. Researchers with the NationalCenter for Atmospheric Research cautioned that the models were nota forecast, and it's unlikely any oil reaching Europe would beharmful.

Oil drifted six miles from the Florida Panhandle's popularsugar-white beaches, and crews on the mainland were doingeverything possible to limit the catastrophe.

Forecasters said the oil would probably wash up by Friday,threatening a delicate network of islands, bays and beaches thatare a haven for wildlife and a major tourist destination dubbed theRedneck Riviera.

Officials said the slick sighted offshore consisted in part of'tar mats' about 500 feet by 2,000 feet in size.

Mark Johnecheck, a 68-year-old retired Navy captain fromPensacola, sat on a black folding chair as rough surf crashedashore at Pensacola Beach and children splashed in the water.

Johnecheck has lived in the Pensacola area since the 1960s, butdoesn't come to the beach very often.

'The reason I'm here now is because I'm afraid it's going to begone,' he said. 'I'm really afraid that the next time I come out here it's not going to look like this.'

He said the arrival of the oil seems foregone: 'I don't knowwhat else they can do,' he said. 'It just makes you feelhelpless.'

His wife walks up and becomes emotional thinking about the oil.

'It's like grieving somebody on their dying bed,' said MarjorieJohnecheck, 62.

Next to her chair is a small white pail full of sugary Panhandlesand. She will take it home and put it in a decorative jar.

'I'm taking it home before it gets black,' she said.

County officials set up the booms to block oil from reachinginland waterways but planned to leave beaches unprotected because they are too difficult to defend against the action of the waves and because they are easier to clean up.

Anne Wilson, a 62-year-old retired teachers aide who has lived in Pensacola Beach for the last year and a half, felt helpless.

'There's nothing more you can do,' said Wilson, who lived in Valdez, Alaska, near the Exxon spill in 1989. 'It's up to Mother Nature to take care of things. Humans can only do so much.'

Florida's beaches play a crucial role in the state's tourism industry. At least 60 percent of vacation spending in the state during 2008 was in beachfront cities. Worried that reports of oil would scare tourists away, state officials are promoting interactive Web maps and Twitter feeds to show travelers -- particularly those from overseas -- how large the state is and how distant their destinations may be from the spill.

The effect on wildlife has grown, too.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 522 dead birds -- at least 38 of them oiled -- along the Gulf coast states, and more than 80 oiled birds have been rescued. It's not clear exactly how many of the deaths can be attributed to the spill.

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