The weather in the Northern Black Sea has taken a turn for the worse, hampering rescue operations after the worst storms for 30 years. Emergency workers have found the bodies of three sailors missing since five metre waves sank their freighter. Helicopters and rescue ships are searching for 20 crewmen who are unaccounted for, but with a new storm on its way, officials say hopes of finding them alive are fading.
The environmental impact of the disaster is also beginning to make itself felt. Thousands of tonnes of spilled fuel oil has coated birds in a thick black sludge along a vast stretch of coastline in the northern mouth of the Black Sea near Russia’s border with Ukraine.
Officials estimate 30 000 have died along with a countless number of fish. Sunday’s storm sank a tanker and at least four freighters. Several other vessels were seriously damaged.
Environmentalists, backed by Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, say the incident raises questions about safety standards for shipping in the region.