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BP halts oil leak recovery for 5 hours after lightning strike

WASHINGTON — BP temporarily suspended the collection of crude oil from the runaway Deepwater Horizon well for nearly five hours Tuesday after a small fire was spotted at the top of the derrick of the Discoverer Enterprise drill ship.

In a statement, BP said the fire, which was extinguished, preliminarily was attributed to lightning that struck the ship at about 9:30 a.m. Central time. No one was injured, and recovery operations were resumed, BP said, at 2:15 p.m.

The incident underscores the precariousness of the recovery efforts. In its newest recovery plan, BP noted that hopes of collecting as much as 80,000 barrels of oil a day from the well once four ships are at the site in mid July would founder if a hurricane approaches and operations must cease.

BP Vice President Doug Suttles also warned that workers aboard those ships would face significant risks once all four are collecting crude oil and natural gas in close proximity to one another.

The Discoverer Enterprise has been collecting about 15,000 barrels a day of oil through a containment device known as the Lower Marine Riser Package, which was installed over the spewing well's failed blowout preventer on June 3.

A fast moving storm hit New Orleans about two hours after the reported lightning strike at the Deepwater Horizon site, which is about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast.

BP has said it expects to begin this week burning as much as 10,000 barrels of oil a day from a nearby drilling rig, the Q4000. It was not known if that operation had begun, however.

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