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Fishermen sickened by canisters

NEW BEDFORD, Mass., June 8 (UPI) -- Four commercial fishermen were treated at Massachusetts hospitals after dredging up canisters that may have contained a nerve agent, authorities said.

The men were dredging for clams Sunday from the ESS Pursuit when they pulled up several canisters off Long Island in New York.

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The crew threw the foot-long canisters back after noticing that one of them was cracked and leaking, said crew member Kevin O'Sullivan, 33, of New Bedford.

Hours later, O'Sullivan began to suffer shortness of breath and the skin of three other crew members began to blister, South Coast Today reported Tuesday. All four men were in good condition Monday, hospital officials said.

The Coast Guard isolated the boat's clam cargo for analysis and ordered the ESS pursuit to remain anchored off the harbor in New Bedford, Mass., until the boat was checked for contamination.

The canisters may have contained a nerve agent such as "mustard gas," an agent of chemical warfare first used in World War I, New Bedford Fire Chief Brian Faria said.

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