(Recasts, adds details of Mississippi River accident, adds
closure on lower Ohio River, adds quote, adds byline)
By Karl Plume
April 7 Two separate barge accidents halted
navigation on the flood-swollen Mississippi and lower Ohio
rivers on Friday, severing the flow of grain from the upper
Midwest to export terminals along the Gulf Coast, government
A section of the Mississippi River was closed to navigation
on Friday morning after nine grain barges broke free from a tow
and struck lock and dam 22 near Saverton, Missouri, north of St.
Louis, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.
The river will be closed until at least 8:00 pm CDT on
Friday (0100 GMT Saturday) to allow the Corps, which operates
the dam, to assess damages and begin recovery operations.
"We won't know for a couple of days the extent of the damage
or if there is damage," said Allen Marshall, spokesman for the
Army Corps' Rock Island district.
It is unclear if the swift current contributed to the
accident or whether there was another cause.
Separately, the Coast Guard has closed a four-mile
(6-km)stretch of the lower Ohio river near Brookport, Illinois,
on Thursday after a tow boat pushing 19 empty barges and one
loaded with steel struck lock and dam 52 and began taking on
The vessel, owned by American Commercial Barge Line, had
about 47,000 gallons of diesel on board, but no pollution has
been reported, the Coast Guard said.
A queue of nine upriver bound vessels and seven downriver
bound vessels was waiting to pass on Friday morning, the Coast
Several days of heavy rain in the Midwest have swelled
waterways above flood stage in much of the region, forcing
shippers to limit the number of barges they haul in each tow or
sideline vessels altogether due to swift currents, grain
The river closures halted movement of grain barges from a
large portion of the Midwest farm belt to Gulf Coast export
terminals, which handle about 60 percent of U.S. corn, soybean
and wheat export shipments.
Corn costs at the Gulf rose by about 2 to 3 cents per
bushel, partly in response to the slowed flow of grain, grain
(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Marguerita