[Updated 7:06 p.m.] Here are the latest developments on the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which unfolded after the oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20:
– National Incident Commander Thad Allen sent a letter Thursday to BP board Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg asking that he "and any appropriate officials from BP" meet Wednesday with senior administration officials, including President Obama. Read the letter
– The flow of oil from the broken pipe in the Gulf of Mexico - before an insertion tube was placed inside, and BP cut the pipe and put a containment cap on the blowout preventer on June 3 - is now estimated to be from 20,000 barrels to 40,000 barrels per day, a federal scientist said Thursday. The previous estimate by researchers, made two weeks ago, was 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day.
– BP announced $25 million grants to Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.
– BP will begin testing a second rig-based system to catch oil this weekend. It would catch an extra 10,000 barrels a day, bringing daily total recovery capacity to 28,000 barrels, said Ken Wells, BP's senior vice president for exploration and production.
– Federal agencies responsible for monitoring the toll to wildlife reported Thursday that 473 oiled birds have been collected alive; 658 were dead. The report said 52 sea turtles have been collected alive; 279 were dead.
– BP has collected about 73,300 barrels (about 3 million gallons) of oil since it placed a containment cap on its ruptured well, the company said.
– The collected oil was transferred from the drilling ship Discoverer Enterprise to a second ship, the Massachusetts, BP said. The Massachusetts will transport the oil for discharge at an onshore terminal.
– Frustration boiled over Thursday as federal and local officials complained at a key Senate governmental affairs subcommittee hearing that it remains unclear who is in charge of the oil disaster response. Among other things, they urged the establishment of a clearer command-and-control system to accelerate the decision-making process and the creation of a more definitive chain of accountability. "I have spent more time fighting the officials of BP and the Coast Guard than fighting the oil," said Billy Nungesser, president of Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish. What is needed is someone "with the guts and the will to make decisions."
– The complaints came one day after federal authorities ordered BP to come up with a contingency plan by Friday for collecting oil that is still gushing out of the ruptured undersea well.
– The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts alongshore currents becoming more westward over the next few days. That should prevent the oil from moving east. But the agency said that coastal regions between Horn Island, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida, may continue to see oil come ashore on beaches. To the west of the Mississippi Delta, oil still floating on the ocean could come ashore between Timbalier Bay and Southwest Pass.
– Images of oil-soaked birds and turtles have prompted a surge in people wanting to volunteer to help in the cleanup and rehabilitation process, said Anna Keene, programs director at the conservation group Alabama Coastal Foundation.
– Government scientists estimate that the spill's flow rate after last week's cut of the well's riser pipe increased by 4 to 5 percent. That's well below an increase of as much as 20 percent that administration officials had indicated could happen.
– BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles denied Wednesday that BP has ordered cleanup workers not to talk to reporters.
– States are tracking the disaster's health impact, including respiratory and skin irritation problems in Louisiana and Alabama, health officials said.
– Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum asked BP on Thursday to deposit $2.5 billion into an interest-earning escrow account so the state can be assured of its availability over the long-term recovery period.
– BP has pledged to speed up its payment of claims to businesses affected by the oil disaster, said Tracy Wareing, a Federal Emergency Management Agency adviser to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
– BP provided more insight into its claims process Tuesday, saying that as of Monday, it has paid nearly $49 million to individuals and businesses affected by the spill. The company also said it expects to issue a second round of payments this month to cover anticipated lost income or profits, bringing the total it has paid to about $84 million.
– Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said Tuesday that he was frustrated with BP's reimbursement process, announcing that he will send National Guard troops and emergency management workers into affected communities to help residents with the preparation of claims forms.
– The Obama administration won't reconsider its moratorium on deepwater oil drilling "without knowing exactly what happened" to cause the oil disaster, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday. The administration ordered the six-month halt to allow time for an investigation into the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon. But Louisiana officials have argued that the moratorium puts thousands of jobs at risk on the Gulf Coast.
– Some of the rig victims' families have objected to the moratorium. "We support drilling in the Gulf," said the widow of one of the 11 oil rig workers killed in the explosion. "It's an economic need and would devastate Southern states."
– President Obama hosted the families of the 11 workers killed in the BP oil rig explosion at the White House on Thursday afternoon. Victims' family members and congressmen pushed for legislation removing oil drilling liability limits. They said they hoped that holding the corporations responsible would prevent a similar accident from occurring.
– Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, blasted BP on Thursday for failing to attend her subcommittee's hearing on oil and gas worker safety. "Honestly, I find it very outrageous that even after an accident that killed 11 workers, BP is not putting a high enough priority on worker safety to send a representative to a hearing specifically focused on protecting workers in their industry," said Murray, the chairwoman of the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee's Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety.
– House Republican leader John Boehner mocked Congress on Thursday for holding multiple hearings on the disaster before experts have figured out how to stop the undersea gusher. He sarcastically called the packed hearing schedule "Congress at its best."
– Obama will make another visit to the Gulf Coast next week to review efforts to contain and clean up the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
– BP's top official, Tony Hayward, has been asked to appear at a hearing June 17 before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
– Advocacy groups are planning a nationwide vigil for later this month.