Image courtesy of Rossiya TV Channel/AP
Some are already calling it the worst ecological disaster to hit the region in years; this past Sunday, as many as ten ships, including a Russian oil tanker, were sunk or run aground by a strong storm that pelted the Black Sea and Azov Sea. The tanker, Volganeft-139, dumped almost half of its 1.3 million gallon (5 million liters) cargo into the strait.
Nakhichevan, one of two freighters broken up during the storm, released close to 7,150 tons of sulfur into the waters before taking the lives of most of its crew. Unlike the recent spill in San Francisco Bay, it seems as though both local and national authorities have been fairly quick to respond, though questions remain about why the oil tanker was allowed to set sail in the first place - according to a regional prosecutor, it was only designed to transport oil on rivers. Authorities are hoping that the storm, which is expected to rage on for up to two days, won't claim any more vessels. While they are hopeful that the sulfur won't cause extensive damage to the environment, they are concerned about the long-term harm posed by the massive spill.
"This problem may take a few years to solve. Fuel oil is a heavy substance and it is now sinking to the seabed. This is a very serious environmental disaster," grimly concluded Mitvol, deputy head of an environmental watchdog.