Black Oil Spill in Kerch Strait (Last Updated Nov. 18)
In the early hours of Sunday, the Russian tanker Volgoneft-139, carrying 4,000 tons of black oil, fell apart due to storm damage, releasing up to 1,300 tons of black oil into the Kerch Strait. (Read the full story.)
Crew members remain on board, waiting to be rescued by helicopters. Despite efforts to contain the spill, there are concerns that the contamination will continue. Black oil from the tanker has already reached the Ukrainian shore. (More coverage in Ukrainian from Ukrayinska Pravda.)
Ukrainian and Russian authorities are working jointly to combat one of the worst environmental disasters in the area.
According to latest reports, the length of the black oil spill has reached 12 km (7.46 miles) long.
Another vessel has spilled some 6,800 tons of sulfur into the Kerch Strait. Large-scale wildlife losses are reported. One report puts the toll at 30,000 sea birds. It is estimated that as many are suffering.
A total of four vessels have sunk due to stormy weather. Two more vessels carrying 8,000 tons of oil have run aground. 14 people are dead and 10 more are missing.
FRIDAY, NOV. 16 — Having just flipped on the Svoboda Slova talk show, I have the following update:
Ukrainian Transport Minister Mykola Rudkovsky says that, in the wake of the storm, the Kerch Port Authority had requested that all vessels exit the Kerch Strait immediately. The vessels on the Russian side of the Kerch Strait, controlled by the Kavkaz Port Authority, disregarded that request and remained in the danger zone.
Plans are under consideration to build a protective dam to prevent black oil from escaping into the Sea of Azov. The dam's workings, however, may result in the repeat flooding of Tuzla Island, which belongs to Ukraine.
For a better idea of what happened in the Kerch Strait, visit UNIAN.
SATURDAY, NOV 17. — Ukrainian investigators believe that smuggling may have played a role in the unusually high concentration of ships in the Kerch Strait. Sergey Boiko, a member of the Russian investigative panel, has spoken of an error of judgment on the part of the Kavkaz and Rostov Port Authorities and the sunk ships' captains.
So far, Moscow has refused to accept blame for the spill. Russian experts consider Ukraine's chances of winning cleanup compensation unlikely.
SUNDAY, NOV. 18 — 20 people are still missing. A total of five vessels sank during the storm; eight more ran aground.
The contaminated area on Tuzla Island stretches along the coastline for 6 km (3.73 miles), and extends 300 m (328 yrd) into the island.
Photos courtesy of AFP, Reuters