Monday, November 12, 2007

Black Sea storm

This was the AFP news late yesterday:

MOSCOW (AFP) — Five-metre (16-feet) high waves smashed apart a Russian tanker on Sunday, spilling 1,300 tonnes of fuel oil into the Black Sea in what environmentalists called an "ecological catastrophe."

Four other cargo ships including three carrying sulphur also sank as winds of up to 108 kilometres (67 miles) an hour battered the Kerch Strait separating the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov.

Rescue services plucked 36 crewmembers from stricken vessels but fears were growing for the fate of 23 missing sailors as weather conditions worsened, reports said.

Forty vessels were evacuated from Kavkaz, a busy Russian commercial port some 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) south of Moscow, officials said. Ten others were forced to stay in the port because of the storm.

Some 300 kilometres further west, high winds sank a cargo ship with 17 sailors on board. Two were rescued and 15 were still missing, officials said.

"This is a major ecological catastrophe," Vladimir Slivyak, head of Ekozashchita, or Ecodefense, a Russian environmental group, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

and here's the news from Winston-Salem Journal today:

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia — Massive waves split a Russian oil tanker in two during a fierce storm yesterday, spilling at least 560,000 gallons of fuel into a strait leading to the Black Sea. It was the worst environmental disaster in the region in years, and some officials said that it could take years to clean up.

The 18-foot waves also sank two Russian freighters nearby, in the Strait of Kerch, a narrow strait linking the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov to the northeast. Eight sailors from one freighter were missing, but rescuers saved all the crew members of the other vessel.

In total, as many as 10 ships sank or ran aground in the Strait of Kerch and in the nearby area of the Black Sea, and reports said that three other sailors were dead or missing.

Maxim Stepanenko, a regional prosecutor, told Vesti 24 that captains had been warned Saturday about the stormy conditions.

Now here's from the BBC News today:

The Russian oil tanker Volganeft-139 came apart after it was smashed by 108km/h (67 mph) winds and 5m (16ft) waves in the narrow Kerch Strait between Russia and Ukraine.

The tanker's 13 crew were rescued after several hours. So far 35 sailors from the sunk vessels have been plucked to safety.

But eight others are still reported missing. The bodies of three people believed to be from the stricken ships were found on Monday morning, Russian news agencies say.

A second oil tanker is being monitored closely because its hull has developed cracks.

Yet more ships have run aground or slipped anchor and are drifting at the mercy of the storm.

Russian prosecutors say they are investigating whether the ships' captains ignored warnings of the approaching storm.

So for a major event like this one, it is difficult to keep facts straight from major or minor news reports, not even the size of the wave. We know it was a bad storm and it was a large wave but not a freaque one. And this following comment in the BBC report could be making someone upset:
But the oil spill is small by comparison with the Prestige disaster off Spain five years ago.
Whether or not a catastrophe is going to be a major ecological catastrophe is probably in the eyes of the beholder -- comparatively speaking, that is. Of course, it's just a matter of time, sooner or later, someone is going to declare that this storm is caused by global warming, what else?

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