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Mississippi River oil cleanup in progress

VICKSBURG, Miss. -- The stretch of Mississippi River where vessel traffic was halted by a barge that hit a railroad bridge Sunday is one of the most dangerous along the 2,500- mile-long river, experts say.

Late yesterday, cleanup crews were skimming oily water near Vicksburg where the barge struck the bridge, rupturing a compartment holding 80,000 gallons of oil.

Authorities said the spill was light and only a sheen had been spotted. Orange boom was stretched across part of the river downstream, and small boats patrolled the area as oil was pumped from the ruptured tank into another tank on the same barge. Officials hope eventually to transfer all the oil to another barge.

Tugs were holding the barge at the bank on the Louisiana side of the river, directly across from Vicksburg's Riverwalk and Lady Luck casinos.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Ryan Gomez said a tug was pushing two tank barges when the collision occurred about 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Both barges were damaged, and one leaked. Authorities declared the bridge safe after an inspection.

Gomez said U.S. Environmental Services, an oil spill response company, was collecting oily water. There was no estimate of how much oil had been pumped out, or how much spilled into the river. -- AP

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