- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - Barges struck bridges over the rain-swollen Mississippi River in two separate incidents, but there were no reports of injuries or pollution, emergency officials say.

Four barges sank in the Mississippi after a towboat pushing 22 barges struck the old U.S. 80 Bridge in Vicksburg on Tuesday morning, officials said. It had previously been reported that two barges sank and that 30 barges were being pushed.

Farther, north, the Coast Guard said a section of the Mississippi was briefly closed after a towboat pushing barges struck a pier of a bridge Monday night between Mississippi and Helena, Arkansas, causing four barges to break loose.

In Vicksburg, Warren County Emergency Management Director John Elfer said the barges were carrying coal. He said the barges struck the bridge at about 8:40 a.m. Tuesday. He said the bridge - long closed to vehicles but used by trains - wasn’t damaged.

Elfer said an American Commercial Barge Lines boat was pushing the barges south when they hit a bridge support and broke loose. He said no hazardous materials spilled. He said it was unlikely the sunken barges would be recovered from the river while the Mississippi is so high and fast moving.

He said bridge strikes such as this one are not unusual when the river is high.

“There is a tremendous amount of water out there, a tremendous current,” he said. When the river is so high and fast, it is “extremely difficult to navigate that stretch of river right here.”

The Coast Guard was not able to immediately comment on the Vicksburg accident.

In the earlier incident, the Coast Guard said a pier of the Helena Highway Bridge was struck about 10 p.m. Monday. The Coast Guard said four barges broke away and were secured by about 3:40 a.m.

Officials said two barges containing about 2.4 million gallons of denatured alcohol were damaged and were taking on water Tuesday. The Coast Guard said the barges will be emptied.

Seth Johnson, a Coast Guard spokesman, said the accident had not caused any pollution and there were no reports of injuries.

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