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Damage reported with barges get loose on Mississippi

Inspection teams were checking a Mississippi River bridge and a casino barge Tuesday after some two dozen barges broke loose here while being pushed upriver, officials said.

There were no reports of injuries and the heavily traveled U.S. 84 bridge at Natchez remained open. Adams County officials said there was some damage to the casino, which is still under construction, and to a dock.

County Civil Defense Director Stan Owens said Tuesday that all but one loose barges had been rounded up or accounted for. He said three barges were still snagged on a bridge pier Tuesday and would be removed later.

The accident occurred Monday when a towboat apparently stalled while heading northbound above the bridge and its string of barges got sideways in the current and broke loose, Owens said.

Officials said it appeared one barge struck a dock at a cement silo, causing damage, before striking the Grand Soleil Casino at the Natchez-Adams Port and continuing downstream.

Owens said officials initially thought the barge had punctured the casino vessel’s hull, allowing some water inside.

He said the Coast Guard and other officials inspected the vessel and “did find some water inside. They pumped out about six inches of water but the water apparently did not flow back in.”

Owens said the casino would be more thoroughly inspected.

Owens said the Mississippi Department of Transportation sent an inspector to look at bridge Monday night and “the preliminary reports are good.”

He said the barges still at the bridge pier are all empty and posed no serious problem. He said when tugs with sufficient horsepower can be secured, the three barges will be removed.

MDOT’s executive director Butch Brown said the bridge was built to withstand hits from loose barges.