Evacuations, river closure, after gas release

      A section of the Mississippi River in northeast Missouri is shut down after the release of sulfur trioxide at an industrial plant. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources says the release of the gas that began about 8 a.m. Tuesday was the apparent result of a mechanical failure in a smoke stack at the BASF plant near Palmyra. No injuries have been reported, and officials are not yet sure how much was released. When mixed with water, sulfur trioxide becomes sulfuric acid, which can cause serious health problems, and even death, if ingested or inhaled. The BASF plant and neighboring industries were evacuated. The U.S. Coast Guard closed a seven mile stretch of the Mississippi. The gas cloud was blowing into Illinois. A spokesman for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency was not aware of any evacuations on that side of the river.