(KMOV.com) -- The Coast Guard has closed a section of the Mississippi River after more than 100 barges broke free of their moorings near St. Louis.
Officials say 104 barges broke free of their moorings around 10:30 p.m. Saturday. According to the Coast Guard, these barges were floating freely and posed "immediate danger" to facilities and bridges near St. Louis.
Most of the vessels have been secured, but nine barges full of coal sunk. One of barges sunk in or near the navigation channel at mile marker 166 near Cliff Cave Park.
Authorities said 11 barges were still unaccounted for, as of Sunday morning. The Coast Guard said all of the tank barges with hazardous cargo were accounted for and safe.
During the breakaway, the Jefferson Barracks Bridge was struck at least four times. MoDOT workers reportedly feared that parts of the sunken barges could break apart and threaten the safety of the bridge.
"They had the bridge closed while the barges were going through," said a MoDOT engineer. "We looked all around to make sure that there are no barges hung up on the substructure."
MoDOT temporarily closed the Jefferson Barracks Bridge around 2 a.m. Sunday for inspection. All lanes of traffic on the bridge were reopened around 8 a.m.
"Working to ensure the safety of life is paramount," said Scott Stoermer with the Coast Guard. "High water conditions, like those St. Louis is experiencing now, can pose a significant and very dynamic risk."
The Coast Guard closed the river from mile marker 170 to 155 to protect navigation and public safety. Officials said mariners are prohibited from entering into, departing from, or moving within the safety zone unless authorized by the Coast Guard.
Stay with News 4 and KMOV.com for the latest updates on this developing story.