Rhine opens after three-week blockage

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The Rhine in Germany was open to traffic in both directions Wednesday for the first time since a tanker carrying sulphuric acid capsized three weeks ago and blocked one of Europe's busiest rivers.

Vessels had already been allowed to pass the stricken tanker between Mainz and Koblenz in western Germany going upstream, but downstream traffic had remained blocked until Wednesday and a backlog of some 400 ships had built up.

The tanker Waldorf remained on its side on Wednesday, but technicians had managed to pump out explosive hydrogen that had built up from the nearly 2,400 tonnes of acid in its tanks.

The January 14 accident occurred in a stretch of river where the current is very strong and mishaps are not uncommon. Two crew members were rescued but two others went missing.

© 2011 AFP

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