Oslo (AFP) Jan 15, 2007
An oil slick from a grounded cargo ship off Norway's west coast has covered some 440 birds in oil and that number is expected to rise, ornithologists said on Monday. "The situation is dramatic for birds. We are expecting a lot of deaths," Frode Falkenberg, an ornithologist with the Norwegian ornithological association NOF, told AFP.
Norwegian media cited local officials as saying the birds affected were primarily sea gulls and eider ducks.
A fish farm owned by Austevoll Seafood told regional daily BT that the oil slick had reached its fish pens, but said it would only know the extent of the damage in a few days.
However, both the environmental group WWF and the coast guard said the threat to the environment was not as bad as had been feared.
Some 370 tonnes of oil have seeped from the 180-metre (600-foot) Cypriot-flagged vessel which ran aground and split in two in heavy weather near the island of Fedje off southwestern Norway on Friday night, coastguard officials said.
The 25-man crew was evacuated safely from the ship on Friday.
But efforts to pump the remaining oil out of the wreck have not yet gotten underway due to stormy weather which has lashed the area since Friday. Divers have not been able to inspect the ship for the same reason.
According to Norwegian public television NRK, coast guard aircraft that overflew the area on Monday observed that oil was still leaking from the wreck.
The ship was not carrying any cargo but contained 585 tonnes of heavy fuel and 72 tonnes of diesel for its own use, the coast guard said.
earlier related report
The captain of the ship, which is carrying 25,000 tonnes of mineral fertilizers and also has 446 tonnes of residual fuel oil and 45 tonnes of diesel fuel on board, decided that eight crew members should remain on board.
The ship had sent out an emergency signal after running onto a sandbank about 1.5 kilometers (one mile) off the coast of northwestern Latvia, officials said.
"Sixteen crew members have been rescued, eight are still on board," Andris Sulcs of the rescue services in the Latvian port of Ventspils told AFP.
The rescue operation was hampered by waves as high as three metres (nine feet) and winds gusting at around 110 kilometers per hour (68 miles per hour).
A small amount of oil was leaking out of the ship's engine room but did not pose a threat to the environment, Latvian maritime and naval officials were quoted by the Baltic News Service (BNS) agency as saying.
Latvian Environment Minister Raimonds Vejonis, who inspected the stranded ship, said it might be necessary to pump out the fuel tanks and offload its cargo to get the ship off the sandbank.
"The worst thing that might happen is that the vessel might break apart, the potassium salt dissolve in the water and the oil products spill into the sea," he told BNS.
Salvage operations cannot begin until the weather has improved, officials said.
Most of the crew members onboard the ship, which had left Ventspils for India, were Filipinos, Sulcs said.
The storm hit coastal regions of Latvia and Lithuania particularly hard, officials said.
"Everyone who walked out of their home last night could tell that this was serious," Andris Siksnis, spokesman for Latvian electricity company Latvenergo, told AFP.
In Latvia, up to 50,000 people were left without electricity at the peak of the storm.
Latvenergo officials were unavailable Monday evening to say how many customers would be spending the night without electricity.
In Lithuania, the storm caused power outages to some 70,000 customers, more than half of them in the western, coastal part of the country, officials said.
Emergency crews worked flat out Monday, despite having difficulty reaching cut-off areas "because of uprooted trees or mud", Rasa Kropaite, spokeswoman for Lithuania's Vakaru Skirstomieji Tinklai, which manages one of two distribution grids, told AFP.
By late Monday afternoon power had been restored to all but 20,000 clients in Lithuania, she said.
The storm hit nearly two years to the day after the strongest storm in 40 years battered the Baltics with winds of up to 144 kilometers per hour (86 mph), said Tomass Kotovics of state-owned forestry management company Latvian State Forests.
"The damage to the forest is far less than in 2005," Kotovics told AFP. "Back then we were speaking in millions of cubic metres, now we can measure the damage in thousands," he said.
Timber is a key industry in Latvia, representing around one third of exports.
This year's storm largely spared the forests "because it hit coastal areas, where there are mainly pine trees, which have strong root networks," Kotovics said.
Strong winds ripped off roofs in Riga, the Latvian capital, while Lithuania's fire and rescue department reported that trees had been torn out of the ground, advertising billboards blown over and traffic lights damaged.
A 70-year-old woman in Lithuania reportedly took a heavy blow to the head when the high winds pushed her into an electricity pylon.
Meanwhile, huge waves washed away the picturesque, landmark dunes in the Lithuanian seaside resort of Palanga, officials said.
Source: Agence France-Presse
Our Polluted World and Cleaning It Up
Unlocking Pollutants' Effects
Washington (UPI) Jan 12, 2007
Now that scientists are confident particulate matter pollution poses a danger to health, they must parse out exactly which components of the pollution harm people, and how. A study in the January issue of Environmental Health Perspectives is one of the first studies to try to unravel these complexities, focusing on specific constituents of PM 2.5 and their sources.
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