Chaos as 26 barges break free and float down Ohio River near Pittsburgh

One barge still remains unaccounted for as of Saturday afternoon

Katie Hawkinson
Saturday 13 April 2024 19:52 BST
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26 barges, several of which are pictured, broke loose in the Ohio River near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania late Friday evening
26 barges, several of which are pictured, broke loose in the Ohio River near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania late Friday evening (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District)

More than two dozen barges were free-floating down the Ohio River, causing the closure of at least one bridge in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania metro area.

Just before midnight on Friday, 26 barges broke loose in the Ohio River near the major city, according to a statement from the US Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District.

Now 23 barges are secure, with authorities working on Saturday afternoon to lock down two more, a public information officer for the US Coast Guard Eighth District told The Independent.

26 barges, several of which are pictured, broke loose in the Ohio River near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania late Friday evening
26 barges, several of which are pictured, broke loose in the Ohio River near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania late Friday evening (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District)

Meanwhile, one barge remains unaccounted for as of 2 pm local time on Saturday. The cause of the barges coming loose is still unknown.

In response to the chaos, authorities closed the McKees Rocks Bridge, just outside of Pittsburgh, for about eight hours beginning at midnight. The city of Pittsburgh initially announced they had closed the West End Bridge, but The New York Times reported a Public Information Officer later clarified the bridge never closed. The news comes just weeks after a bridge collapsed in Baltimore when a ship rammed into it, killing six people.

Of the loose barges, 23 are carrying dry, non-hazardous materials, while the remaining three are empty, according to a statement from Pittsburgh Public Information Officer Cara Cruz.

No injuries were reported. However, Peggy’s Marina — a family owned and operated harbour, according to their website — sustained “extensive damage,” Ms Cruz said.

One of the barges, several of which are pictured, is still unaccounted for as of Saturday afternoon
One of the barges, several of which are pictured, is still unaccounted for as of Saturday afternoon (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District)

This isn’t the only Ohio River disaster Pittsburgh residents have faced in recent days.

On Friday, about three inches of rain fell on the Pittsburgh area, causing dangerous flash flooding throughout the region. The downpour spurred several emergency evacuations and rescues. Some parts of southern Allegheny County, Pennsylvania saw up to four inches of rain.

As of Saturday, no injuries have been reported as a result of the extreme weather.

The Independent has contacted the City of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey’s office for comment.

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