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Gulf oil spill could spread to the Florida Keys

Scientists warn that oil from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico is moving rapidly toward a current that could carry it into the Florida Keys and the Atlantic Ocean, according to news reports.

Government officials said the oil had not yet entered the Gulf's so-called loop current, and they are continuing to monitor the movement of the spill closely, The New York Times reports.

But two independent scientists, analyzing ocean current and satellite data, said the oil was in an eddy that was quickly being drawn into the current, portending a much wider spread of the hazardous slick.

The White House, meanwhile, said President Barack Obama would soon name an independent commission to investigate the cause of the spill and the response to it, largely supplanting the inquiry now being conducted by the United States Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service.

Technicians from BP say they are continuing to suction oil from the drilling pipe lying on the ocean floor 5,000 feet below the surface. They are pulling oil out through a narrow tube at the rate of about 1,000 barrels a day, roughly a fifth of the official estimate of the leak, the newspaper reports.

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In Florida, officials there say they are working closely to assess the situation and any possible impact it may have on the state.

"At the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, we stand ready to minimize harm to wildlife affected by the oil leak, if oil should come ashore," the agency said in a statement. "The FWC is involved in the strategic planning that will attempt to secure the spill to prevent damage to Florida and its outstanding resources."

The FWC is meeting Wednesday at St. Pete Beach to further discuss the issue.

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