21 May 2011

Mississippi River closed to traffic

3:13 pm on 21 May 2011

The US Coast Guard has closed a five-mile stretch of the swollen Mississippi River after three barges sank.

They had broken loose from tug boats near Baton Rouge, Louisiana and a fourth barge also broke loose but was recaptured. No injuries or pollution were reported.

The river has been experiencing record flooding in recent weeks and the high water has made navigating the river hazardous.

The BBC reports it was expected to crest at Natchez, Mississippi on Saturday at 61.8ft (18.8 metres), more than three feet above a record crest in 1937.

A spillway was opened last weekend in southern Louisiana to take pressure off levees protecting Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

More than 3000 people have evacuated from flooded parishes in southern Louisiana.

The Mississippi is not expected to recede to normal levels until mid-June.