Two crewmembers continue to remain missing after a barge sank in the busy Rhine River this week. A part of the river, one of the busiest waterways in Europe, was closed to shipping traffic soon after the accident.
The barge contained more than 2,400 tons of sulfuric acid when it went down. Two of the four crew members including a German and a Czech, remain missing. The sinking occurred close to the town of Sankt Goarshausen, about 90 miles south of Koblenz. The barge had been transporting the acid from the headquarters of the chemical plant BASF to another facility in Antwerp Belgium.
So far, the causes of the accident are unknown. The sinking occurred at a spot that has seen several such maritime accidents over the past few years. The accident occurred on a narrow bend of the river that is known for its strong currents and rocky bottom.
Meanwhile, the barge accident is likely to translate into heavy financial losses for the European shipping industry. The Rhine River is expected to stay shut for the next three days, as authorities try to secure the barge. Hundreds of vessels will now be forced to seek alternative routes. Even before the accident, high water levels in the Rhine had already led to authorities closing down the river for a few days. The river handles about 120 million metric tons of cargo every year.
Four cranes have now been employed to move the sunken barge. Initially, authorities had believed it possible for a few barges to start moving past the accident site, but that changed when it was found that the sunken barge would likely slip into a 16-foot deep ditch formed after the accident.