Raw: Runaway barges close section of Mississippi River - KMOV.com

Raw: Runaway barges close section of Mississippi River

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By KMOV Web Producer By KMOV Web Producer

(KMOV.com) -- The Coast Guard in St. Louis has closed a section of the Mississippi River after more than 100 barges broke from their moorings.

Officials say 114 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 reportedly sunk 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."

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.

MoDOT also temporarily closed the Jefferson Barracks Bridge around 2 a.m. Sunday for inspection.

All lanes on the Jefferson Barracks 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."

Stay with News 4 and KMOV.com for the latest updates on this developing story.

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