TEXAS CITY, Texas A barge carrying nearly a million gallons of oil collided with a ship in the Houston Ship Channel near Texas City Saturday afternoon.

The US Coast Guard believes some 160,000 gallons of heavy oil spilled into the channel.

It is an extremely serious spill, said Coast Guard captain Brian Penoyer. There is a large quantity, it will spread.

Guard officials received a call around 1:30 p.m. from the captain of the 585-foot bulk carrier Summer Wind, reporting a collision between the ship and a barge. The barge contained 924,000 gallons of fuel oil, towed by the motor vessel Miss Susan.

Miss Susan was moving from Texas City to Bolivar at the time of the collision. Kirby Inland Marine, owner of the Miss Susan and the barges, activated an emergency response plan.

The six crew members of the Miss Susan are all accounted for and are in stable condition. Two people were taken to the hospital to be checked out after being exposed to Hydrogen Sulfide.

As a citizen and resident of the bay area, I am very concerned about the incident, said Jim Guidry of Kirby Inland Marine. We are concerned about the effective clean-up and protection of the environment and people are the bay.

Marine traffic in the Houston Ship Channel from the Intracoastal Waterway to lighter buoy 32 has been temporarily suspended.

The Bolivar ferry has also been shut down as crews work to clean up the spill.

The Texas City Dike and all surrounding parks are closed until the area is considered safe. Officials are also monitoring air quality around the area.

The US Coast Guard says it is too early to deterimine what caused the collision, but they are looking into whether fog was factor.

Visibility is one of the things in the investigation we will be looking into, said Penoyer. We are in fog season and we had fog today.

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