Obama swims in the Gulf to back tourism

Barack Obama has waded into the debate over whether it is safe to swim in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil disaster by taking his nine-year-old daughter for a swim.

In an attempt to deflect mounting criticism for not following his own advice that Americans should holiday in the Gulf, the US President took his family on a trip to the Florida resort Panama City to help restore confidence in the state.

The White House released one image of Obama and his youngest daughter, Sasha, with their heads just above the water. Other photographers were kept away from the beach.

It was the President’s fifth visit since the BP oil spill, with this trip specifically about boosting tourism.

Obama declared: “Oil is no longer flowing into the Gulf,” saying he wanted to “let Americans know they should come on down here”.

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“I’ll not be satisfied until the environment has been restored, no matter how long it takes,” Obama said in Panama City Beach, Florida.

“We’re going to continue to monitor and remove any oil that reaches the surface.”
Beaches all along the Gulf coast are clean and open for business and the seafood is safe, he added.

However Obama has been criticised for using his daughter to score political points, and for staying in the area for just 26 hours.

The family will instead holiday later this month on the elite resort of Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts - far to the north of the Gulf waters.

The trip came as BP’s efforts to permanently seal off the well suffered a setback.

Up to 1,000 barrels of oil are thought to remain trapped in the well and US officials fear new leaks may form when the company pumps in more mud and cement for the final plug.

BP has had to suspend work on the relief well and bottom-kill procedure until further tests are completed.