Coast Guard's Allen says containment cap increasingly holding oil at bay in stricken Gulf

WASHINGTON (AP) — The man heading the Obama administration's response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico said Tuesday that a newly-installed containment cap on the stricken BP rig is helping to limit the leak.

Speaking at a Washington briefing, Adm. Thad Allen of the Coast Guard said that more than 14,800 barrels of oil have been kept out of Gulf waters in the last 24 hours. Allen told reporters the amount of oil kept from spilling into the Gulf "has climbed steadily" from the first day the containment cap was installed.

He also said officials will be meeting with BP to assess how well it is handling claims for relief from people hurt by the spill. Allen said the aim is "to see if we need to provide any oversight." He had said Monday BP was struggling to handle claims.

"Well, the answer is we're not comfortable with it," Allen said.

"Working claims is not something that's part of BP's organizational competence here — capacity — and they're relying on subcontractors to do this," he added. "It's our responsibility to make sure that's being done effectively in the best interests of the American people."

He also said his office would be dispatching people to each state took take a look at how BP was processing individual claims and business losses.

Allen responded tartly to a question about why more progress has not been made in taming the spill resulting from the April 20 explosion and fire.

"I have never said this is going well. We're throwing everything at it that we've got," he said in response to a question telephoned in to his briefing. "I've said time and time again that nothing good happens when oil is on the water." He called the accident a "catastrophe" for the region.