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BP reaches $7.8-billion settlement over oil spill

BP has reached a $7.8-billion settlement with thousands of people affected by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The deal, announced late Friday, will benefit more than 100,000 residents, fishermen and clean-up workers who suffered damage to their health or livelihood, the BBC reported.

In addition to the financial damages, the agreement also includes provisions to cover medical services related to the spill for the next 21 years, the New York Times said.

According to a BP statement, "the proposed settlement represents significant progress toward resolving issues from the Deepwater Horizon accident and contributing further to economic and environmental restoration efforts along the Gulf Coast," chief executive Bob Dudley said.

BP is still expected to have to pay tens of billions of dollars on top of the settlement in fines and claims from the federal, state and local governments, Agence France Presse reported.

The trial to decide who bears the blame for the disaster has been delayed once more as a result of yesterday's deal. Having already been postponed by a week to allow settlement negotiations to continue, it had been due to start Monday – but has now been adjourned indefinitely.

All parties need time to "reassess their respective positions" now that the smaller plaintiffs' claims have been settled, presiding Judge Carl Barbier wrote in a court order last night. The deal will "likely result in a realignment of the parties in this litigation and require substantial changes to the current Phase I trial plan," he said.

The case could last two years and BP could be fined roughly $17.6 billion if the judge finds the company guilty of gross negligence.

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The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf in April 2010, killing 11 workers and releasing 5 million barrels of crude oil from BP's Macondo well. President Barack Obama called the spill "the worst environmental disaster the nation has ever faced."

BP says it has already spent more than $22 billion cleaning up the spill and compensating those affected by it.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Belson/U.S. Coast Guard

A Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter flies overhead as the Coast Guard Cutter Resolute steams near the Deepwater Horizon spill site on July 4, 2010.