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Barge Leaks Oil after Collision in Houston Ship Channel

(Reuters) - A barge leaked oil into the Houston Ship Channel following a collision with a bulk carrier on Saturday near Texas City, and emergency responders have laid down floating barriers in an effort to contain the spill, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.

The incident at the mouth of Galveston Bay has led to a shutdown of the channel for ship traffic entering and exiting the Gulf of Mexico, said a spokesman for the Galveston County Office of Emergency Management.

The barge, which was being towed by a motor vessel, contained 168,000 gallons (636,000 liters) of fuel oil in the tank that was breached in a collision with a bulk carrier, said Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda Emery.

The barge and another barge towed by the motor vessel had a total of 924,000 gallons (3.5 million liters) of fuel oil but the other tankers on board were not breached, she said.

"This is a very significant discharge" of oil, said Coast Guard spokesman Lieutenant Junior Grade Kristopher Kidd.

It is unclear exactly how much oil spilled out of the breached tank, which has partially sunk, officials said.

Authorities have laid down floating boom lines in an effort to contain the sheen of oil on the water, Emery said.

The Houston Ship Channel is a 53-mile waterway connecting Houston and its petrochemical port, which is the largest in the United States, to the Gulf of Mexico.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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