, NEW ORLEANS, Apr 25 – The United States Coast Guard – already battling an oil spill off the Louisiana coast – responded to an unrelated tank barge explosion Saturday – approximately 72 miles (116 kilometers) up the Mississippi River from New Orleans.
The barge exploded at approximately while taking on a load of benzene at the LBC Tank Terminals at Sunshine, Louisiana, Coast Guard officials in New Orleans reported.
Two people were injured in the barge blast.
"The extent of those injuries is unknown," the Coast Guard said in a statement released Saturday night.
The fire from the blast was extinguished by firefighters. The river remained open to maritime traffic. Air monitoring was underway. Barge inspectors and Coast Guard investigators were on the scene Saturday night.
"The Coast Guard has notified water intake owners near the area, but there are no reports of pollution in the water at this time," according to the Coast Guard statement.
A spokesperson for the federal maritime agency was not immediately available.
The river blast came at a time when officials were trying to battle a stubborn oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Rear Admiral Mary Landry said Saturday that the Coast Guard remains determined to keep an oil spill from the sunken drilling rig Deepwater Horizon from reaching Louisiana\’s fragile coastal wetlands and marsh – habitats for birds, wildlife and seafood alike.
"Our goal is to fight this oil spill as far offshore as possible," Landry said.
The Deepwater Horizon sank after a fire and explosion Tuesday, more than 40 miles (64 kilometers) from the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana.
Eleven crewmembers from the rig are missing, 115 were rescued.
The cause of the incident is still under investigation, Landry said Saturday.