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Obama promises action during visit to Gulf

GRAND ISLE, La. - Intent on showing firm command of a deepening Gulf Coast crisis, President Barack Obama Friday inspected a fouled beach, took in what he called "heartbreaking stories" of the catastrophe and declared "we're going to keep at it" until the America's largest-ever oil spill is stopped and cleaned up.

"It's an assault on our shores, on our people, on the regional economy and on communities like this one," said Obama, from this small barrier island town threatened by the massive oil leak. "People are watching their livelihoods wash up on the beach."

With more than 20,000 people already working to contain and clean up the still-gushing crude, Obama announced he was tripling the manpower in places where oil has washed ashore or is about to.

"This is our highest priority and it deserves a response that is equal to the task," he said at a shoreside podium in front of a stretch of sparkling blue, unmarred water. Dolphins and fish could be seen gliding through the water and seabirds frequently fluttered past.

Meanwhile, BP's chief executive cautioned that it will be two more days before anyone knows if the latest fix attempt will stop the oil spewing into the sea. There are no guarantees the "top kill" being tried for the first time 5,000 feet underwater will work.

BP chief executive Tony Hayward had projected a resolution as soon as Thursday afternoon, but an 18-hour delay in the injection of heavyweight mud meant to stop the oil scuttled those plans.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Friday the mud was able to push down the oil and gas coming up at great force from underground, but it had not overwhelmed the gusher or stopped the flow.

Obama made a promise to coast residents reminiscent of previous presidents speaking after disasters - such as George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"I'm here to tell you that you are not alone, you will not be abandoned, you will not be left behind," Obama said. "The media may get tired of the story, but we will not. We will be on your side and we will see this through."

He came armed with specific advice for beleaguered locals and the concerned U.S. public.

Acknowledging that storm-battered coastal states have "weathered your fair share of trials and tragedy," he directed those in the region who are filing claims for damages to count on the government - state and federal - to help cut any red tape. He was joined by the governors of Louisiana, Florida and Alabama.

To the public at large, he pleaded for volunteers to join the cleanup and for tourists to flock to the majority of the region's coastline that is untouched.

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