Tug sinks, beaches shut

UPDATE: 3:40 p.m.

The smell of diesel filled the air as crews worked to recover a capsized tugboat that may have spilled as much as 22,000 litres of the fuel in the Fraser River between Vancouver and Richmond on Monday night.

Canadian Coast Guard spokesman Dan Bate said it's unknown what caused the George H. Ledcor tug to capsize around 10 p.m. Monday, just east of Vancouver International Airport.

There were four people aboard the vessel and all were rescued by the crew on a nearby tug, Bate said.

The capsized vessel is part of a gravel tug-and-tow operation and was towing a gravel barge at the time. The vessel was about three-quarters submerged and had been secured to pilings, Bate said.

While the tug's fuel capacity is 22,000 litres, he said crews are still assessing the total volume of the fuel spill.

It's unclear what the impact of the spill will be on the ecosystem, which is at the north arm of the salmon-bearing Fraser River.

Booms and absorbent pads have been placed around the vessel by the coast guard and Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, the organization responsible for responding to oil spills along the B.C. coast.

David Hoff with Ledcor said divers have been down to see the tug and assess how the company would recover the vessel. The company said the recovery would happen on Wednesday.

"For safety reasons an additional, larger crane and barge will be used to lift the tug. Spill containment equipment and personnel will remain on-site until the lift is completed," it said on Twitter.

The City of Vancouver said in a release that it was closing the beach at Fraser River Park until further notice. The City of Richmond also closed the shoreline of McDonald Beach Park as a precaution.

ORIGINAL: 9:30 a.m.

A tug carrying as much as 22,000 litres of diesel fuel has capsized in the Fraser River between Vancouver and Richmond.

Information on the Ministry of Environment website says the tug, George H. Ledcor, capsized near Deering Island, just east of Vancouver International Airport, early Tuesday.

The responding agencies include the coast guard, Environment Ministry, City of Vancouver, Musqueam First Nation, Transport Canada and Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, which is tasked with handling fuel spills along the B.C. coast.

The coast guard has laid booms around the tug.

Officials have not said why the tug may have capsized.

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