Gas leak forces closure of Houston Ship Channel

FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2010 file photo, refineries and chemical plants release steam near the Houston ship channel. (AP Photo/File/Pat Sullivan)
FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2010 file photo, refineries and chemical plants release steam near the Houston ship channel. (AP Photo/File/Pat Sullivan)

HOUSTON (AP) — The Coast Guard says ammonia that leaked from a vessel forced the closure of the Houston Ship Channel and nearby bridges while sending four workers to a hospital.

Coast Guard officials said in a release that the tanker Sombeke was docked at the Houston Ammonia Terminal late Friday when a gasket blew and anhydrous ammonia leaked.

The tugboat Trigger was refueling the Sombeke when the leak happened, and four of its crewmembers were exposed and required hospitalization. They were later released.

The closure of the channel, as well as the Interstate 610 and Beltway 8 bridges, lasted about 90 minutes.

Authorities had alerted neighbors to remain in their homes. A hazardous materials team determined the leak was “minor.”

Anhydrous ammonia is a pungent gas that’s used as a fertilizer.

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