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BP early Wednesday used robot submarines and a complex maneuver in an attempt to stop the massive flow of crude oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.

The company tried to cut into the undersea well’s riser pipe, the initial steps toward placing a cap over the well that has spewed hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico every day since late April.

However, BP’s effort stalled after the blade of a diamond wire saw got stuck, said U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government’s point man on the oil spill.

BP’s goal is to free the saw and put in a new blade if needed to finish the second cut later Wednesday, Allen said at a news conference.

The risky “cut and cap” operation involved remote-controlled robots to sever the damaged riser pipe. Engineers then plan to place a custom fit cap over the well stub.

Allen said how well that cap fits and stops oil from gushing depends on how smoothly the riser pipe is cut.

“It’s a question of how much precision we can bring to it,” he said.

Meanwhile, rust-colored oil washed ashore Tuesday on barrier islands off Alabama and Mississippi as a beleaguered BP tried to stop the continued flow of the largest spill in U.S. history.

Doug Suttles, the company’s chief operating officer, told CNN’s “John King USA” on Tuesday night that the latest procedure should collect the “vast majority” of the oil if it succeeds.

“We’ll be putting the cap assembly, loading that out and sending it to the seabed later tonight,” Suttles said. “We should be able to install this tomorrow. And hopefully by late tomorrow or Thursday, we should have this thing operating.”

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