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Warnings of Long-Term Damage After Russian Oil Spill

An Environmental Catastrophe
A crew member from the stranded Russian cargo vessel Vera Voloshina is evacuated by line Sunday by the Ukrainian rescue service on the coast near Sudak, Ukraine. More Photos >

MOSCOW, Nov. 12 — An environmental disaster began to unfold in southern Russia on Monday as tens of thousands of oil-slicked seabirds and globules of heavy oil dotted the shoreline, a day after at least 11 ships, including a small oil tanker, sank or broke apart in a fierce storm, Russian officials said.

A local official, Alexander Tkachyov, governor of the Krasnodar region, said 30,000 seabirds were covered with oil and would probably die, Interfax said. The World Wide Fund for Nature, a conservation group, said the heavy fuel oil also settled onto the seabed, surely destroying marine habitat and killing fish.

The tanker, Volganeft-139, split apart as it was pounded by 18-foot waves in the Kerch Strait which links the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea, a strategic pathway for oil exported by tanker from Russia and the Caspian basin to Europe. Its 13 crew members were rescued, but 1,300 tons of heavy, viscous oil — the equivalent of 560,000 gallons — were discharged into the sea.

Image: Huge waves in the Kerch Strait split a Russian tanker. More Photos »

MP3 Podcast: The Story of this disaster available at the Earth Frenzy Radio Blog
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