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Tanker Hits Bridge in Portland Harbor

September 27, 1996

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) _ An oil tanker trying to squeeze through a tight drawbridge gashed its hull Friday, spilling heating oil into Portland Harbor.

The Coast Guard estimated 500 to 1,000 gallons a minute spilled for at least 10 minutes before the leak slowed. The tanker was carrying 235,000 gallons.

The Million Dollar Bridge, a major commuting route into Portland, will be closed until at least Saturday morning while the damage is assessed.

``It took a significant hit, and there is major damage to the South Portland side,″ said Fire Department spokesman Jerry DiMillo.

The bridge has a draw of 93 feet. Some of the larger tankers that pass through every day clear the bridge by as little as one foot on either side.

The tanker continued on to a terminal, where its cargo was being pumped out. Cleanup crews used booms to contain the leaked oil, a light fuel that often is allowed to break up and evaporate after spills.

The Million Dollar Bridge was so named because that is what it cost to build about 80 years ago. It will be replaced next year by a higher, wider span that is supposed to cost $165 million.

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