Hopes fade of finding sailors lost in storm

Hope is fading for 20 sailors missing in the Black and Azov seas following a violent storm at the weekend. A massive air and sea search has been suspended because of bad weather in the region. The storm sunk at least five ships, including an oil tanker.

Emergency teams were scouring the seas on Monday, searching for the crews of two ships.

At least three sailors are known to have died while sixty others were plucked from the sea.

With sea temperatures at 9C, fears are growing that the missing men may already be dead.

Doctor Vladimir Kryltsov from the Kerch Sea Centre says “a man can survive for no more than 30 minutes before losing consciousness”.

“In an hour and a half a deadly numbness may start. But there is a chance they have been thrown up onto the shore,” Kryltsov said.

Both Russian and Ukrainian Prime Ministers are going to the scene to oversee rescue operations and examine the environmental damage.

The Volganeft-139 oil tanker split in half, spilling more than a thousand tonnes of fuel into the Black Sea and raising concerns of an ecological disaster.

Two barges carrying crude oil also ran aground but their tanks are believed to be intact.

Three cargo ships, each containing more than two thousand tonnes of sulphur, also sank in the Kerch Strait. 

Twenty-four crew members from the ships wrecked in the Kerch Strait remain in hospital. Three of them are in a serious condition.

The Black Sea region
The Black Sea region

The entire crew of the Volganeft-139 oil tanker were saved, but rescuers are still searching for crew members of a cargo ship that sank off the coast of Sevastopol.

Inland damage

Meanwhile, Crimean authorities are assessing the damage caused to areas inland. 

One person is known to have died.

The storm-force winds downed power lines across the region, cutting off central heating and water supplies.

The wind ripped the rooves from dozens of houses.

The natural environment suffered too with more than 500 trees uprooted.

Russia and Ukraine are working together to deal with the aftermath.

The weathermen say the storm could intensify again.

Greenpeace express concern

The environmental organisation Greenpeace says the Black Sea could take ten years to recover from the pollution.

Greenpeace co-ordinator Aleksey Kiselev says the seabed in the region is very stony, making it difficult to trap the spilt oil.

“We'll see the oil coming up from the bottom and drifting in the sea for the next five to ten years”, Kiselev said.

“It's hard to predict now how many birds and fish will die and how tourism will be affected in the area,” he said.