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Restricted vessel traffic permitted on Miss. River

JACKSON, Miss. — The Coast Guard is permitting restricted commercial vessel traffic on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, Miss., as crews work to remove oil from a leaking barge, a Guard spokesman said Thursday.

Chief Petty Officer Paul Roszkowski said southbound commercial traffic will be allowed to pass through the ­area during daylight hours and northbound commercial traffic can move at night.

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A 16-mile stretch of the river was closed Sunday after two oil barges hit a railroad bridge and one of them started leaking light crude.

‘‘We understand the impact that the closure has had on industry and commerce. One of our main goals besides cleaning up the accident is getting traffic moving again. We will push to keep traffic moving as long as it is safe and doesn’t impact operations,’’ Roszkowski said.

At times there have been dozens of vessels and hundreds of barges idled at that section of the river, which separates Mississippi and Louisiana.

Crews began pumping oil from the leaking barge onto another barge — a process known as lightering — on Wednesday.

Roszkowski said the main concern was that the barge could shift in a way that would accelerate the leak.

The Coast Guard said 7,000 gallons of crude oil were unaccounted for, but it’s not clear if it all spilled into the river or if some went into empty spaces inside the barge. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

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