BP stops Gulf oil flow for first time since April

NEW ORLEANS, July 16, 2010 (AFP) – British energy giant BP stopped the oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday for the first time in three months as it began key tests hoping to stem the spill for good. Shortly after BP engineers shut down the last of three valves on a giant new cap placed on the blown-out well at around 2:25 pm (1925 GMT), senior vice president Kent Wells announced no oil was leaking into the seas.

“I’m very excited to see no oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico,” Wells told reporters, but cautioned it was only the start of a painstaking testing process set to last 48 hours to analyze the condition of the underground wellbore.

The announcement was the first sign of real hope for desperate coastal residents who have had their livelihoods ravaged by the worst environmental disaster in the nation’s history, now in its 13th week.

Teeming fishing grounds have been closed and tourists have been scared away — two vital economic lifelines for the southern region still struggling to recover from the 2005 Hurricane Katrina.

Endangered wildlife has also been increasingly threatened by huge ribbons of oil fouling the shores of five states — Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi,