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Storm smashes Russian oil tanker, causing 1,300-tonne spill

by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Nov 11, 2007
Five-metre high waves smashed a Russian tanker in half on Sunday, spilling 1,300 tonnes of fuel oil into the Kerch Strait between Russia and Ukraine, officials said.

Two other cargo ships, each carrying some 2,000 tonnes of sulphur, sank in the area and eight crew members from one of the vessels were reported missing amid worsening weather in waters between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Some 300 kilometres (187 miles) further west, the high winds sank a cargo ship carrying scrap metal with 17 sailors on board off Ukraine's Black Sea coast. Two crew members were rescued and 15 were still missing, officials said.

As wind speeds in the area reached 108 kilometres (67 miles) per hour, several other ships were reported stranded in and around Kavkaz, a busy Russian commercial port some 1,200 kilometres (746 miles) south of Moscow.

Forecasters said the storm conditions would worsen in the coming hours.

A total of 42 vessels have been evacuated from the port and 17 others have been forced to stay because of the risky weather conditions, Russian news agencies reported, citing a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry.

There have been no reports of any deaths or injuries from the storm.

Russian environmental campaigners were quoted as saying that the oil spill and the sinking of the two ships carrying sulphur would cause an "ecological catastrophe" in the area.

"This is a serious environmental accident that will require a large amount of work," Oleg Mitvol, head of the Russian government's environmental monitoring agency Rosprirodnadzor, said on the Vesti-24 news channel.

"This problem may take a few years to solve."

Prosecutors have opened a criminal inquiry for pollution, reports said.

The prow and the stern of the oil tanker, called Volgoneft-139, tore apart in the storm and "around 1,300 tonnes of fuel oil were spilled," a transport ministry spokeswoman told AFP.

The 13 crew members who were earlier stranded in the stern of the tanker were not in danger but rescue efforts to limit the oil spill were being hampered by harsh weather conditions, Russian news agencies reported.

The spill is relatively small compared to the Prestige disaster off the Spanish coast five years ago, when 64,000 tonnes of fuel oil spilled into the Atlantic Ocean.

In November 2002, the Liberian oil tanker Prestige broke up and sank off northwestern Spain, spewing fuel oil into the waters and fouling thousands of kilometres (miles) along the Atlantic coast of France, Spain and Portugal.

Russia and Ukraine have set up a joint crisis centre to deal with Sunday's disaster and aircraft were on standby to fly to the area as soon as the weather allows.

The Volgoneft-139 was carrying fuel oil from the southern Russian city of Samara on the Volga River to an oil terminal in Ukraine, agency reports quoted a Russian official as saying.

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Pollution From Marine Vessels Linked To Heart And Lung Disease
Rochester NY (SPX) Nov 08, 2007
Pollution from marine shipping causes approximately 60,000 premature cardiopulmonary and lung cancer deaths around the world each year, according to a report scheduled to appear in the Dec. 15 issue of Environmental Science and Technology, the journal of the American Chemical Society. The report benchmarks for the first time the number of annual deaths caused globally by pollution from marine vessels, with coastal regions in Asia and Europe the most affected.

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