(Reuters) - Barge shipping traffic on the Mississippi River backed up further on Friday after a tow boat accident and oil spill late on Wednesday prompted the U.S. Coast Guard to close a 17-mile stretch of the river near Paducah, Kentucky.
A total of 33 barge tows hauling commodities such as oil and grain were waiting to pass through the shuttered section of the key shipping waterway between river mile markers 922 to 939, 10 of them heading downriver and 23 upriver, a Coast Guard spokesman.
Responders have deployed booms to contain the estimated 120,588 gallons slurry oil spilled, although containment was challenging because it is heavier than water. The Coast Guard is also surveying the river from an airplane to determine the scope of the spill.
The cause of the accident is still under investigation and the Coast Guard would not speculate how long the closure would persist.
Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Tom Brown