(Reuters) - The U.S. Coast Guard said it has restricted traffic on the Mississippi River near Chester, Illinois, on Thursday after a tow boat sank in the major commercial shipping waterway overnight.
The boat's two crew members were safely rescued by another towboat, the Coast Guard said.
A safety zone was established from river mile marker 104 to 106 after the towing vessel Maverick sank around 12:30 a.m. CDT (0530 GMT) about 80 miles southeast of the busy Port of St. Louis.
The vessel sank with about 3,500 gallons of diesel fuel and an unknown amount of lube oil aboard, but there have been no reports of fuel in the water, the Coast Guard said in a release.
Pollution cleanup and salvage contractors have been called to the scene and the cause of the sinking was under investigation, it said.
The Mississippi River is a critical shipping artery that connects farms in the Midwest with export terminals along the Gulf Coast, where some 60 percent of all U.S. corn, soybeans and wheat exit the country. Other commodities such as coal, fertilizer, crude oil, and construction materials are also shipped on the river.
(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Bernadette Baum)