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UPDATE 1-Upper Houston Ship Channel reopens-Coast Guard

HOUSTON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - A four-mile (6.5 km) stretch at the beginning of the upper Houston Ship Channel reopened Saturday after salvage crews removed a sunken tug from the waterway connecting the busiest U.S. petrochemical port to the Gulf of Mexico, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

One crew member was killed when the tug boat J.R. Nichols sank in the channel near the docks of the LyondellBasell [ACCELC.UL] refinery in Houston. The other four members of the boat’s crew were rescued by Lyondell employees.

As many as four inbound ships had to wait before they could reach their destinations in the upper channel Saturday following the channel’s reopening.

Both the Lyondell refinery and Valero Energy Corp's VLO.N Houston refinery said their operations were unaffected by the closure of less than 10 percent of the 53-mile (85-km) channel.

Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Richard Chang