NEW ORLEANS - BP mounted a more aggressive response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday as it deployed undersea sensors to better measure the ferocious flow of crude while drawing up new plans to meet a government demand that it speed up the containment effort ahead of President Barack Obama's visit to the coast.

The financial ramifications of the disaster are growing by the day as the White House and states put pressure on BP to set aside billions of dollars to pay spill-related claims in a move that could quickly drain the company's cash reserves and hasten it toward possible bankruptcy.

BP was also trying to meet a Sunday deadline to respond to a letter from the Coast Guard demanding that it intensify the efforts to stop the spill. One of the actions BP took yesterday was to use robotic submarines to position sensors inside the well to gauge how much oil is spilling. The robots were expected to insert the pressure sensors through a line used to inject methanol - an antifreeze meant to prevent the buildup of icelike slush - into a containment cap seated over the ruptured pipe, BP spokesman David Nicholas said.

Scientists haven't been able to pin down just how much oil is leaking into the Gulf, although the high-end estimates indicated the spill could exceed 100 million gallons. The government has stressed that the larger estimates were preliminary and considered a worst-case scenario.

The Obama administration's point man on the oil spill, Adm. Thad Allen, said Sunday government officials think the best figures are from a middle-of-the-road estimate, which would put the spill at around 66 million gallons of oil. That is about six times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.

BP is capturing about 630,000 gallons of oil a day, but hundreds of thousands more are still escaping into the Gulf. The company has said it could begin siphoning an additional 400,000 gallons a day starting Tuesday by burning it, using a special boom being installed on a rig.

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