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Mysterious ecological disaster strikes Russia’s Kamchatka region

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Ecological disaster took place on the shore of Russia’s Spaseniya Bay

Kamchatka locals in Russia woke up to their horror when they discovered an ecological disaster with yellow-tinged seawater, foul smell, and hordes of dead sea creatures about three weeks ago. The dead animals littered across the shore of Khalaktyrsky beach in Russia’s Far East. Kamchatka is a vast peninsula in Russia’s Far East. It lies between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Okhotsk. In fact, the region is famous for its black sand beach and mesmerizing sceneries. As such, it is popular among local surfers and tourists.

The scale the number of dead sea animals that have washed ashore at the popular tourist destination in Kamchatka was staggering. The news had raised widespread speculations over the mass die-off. Social media users have shared images of dead seals, octopi, starfish and urchins on the Khalaktyrsky Beach in the Avacha Bay for several days. The types of dead creatures included deep-sea Giant Pacific octopuses, seals, sea urchins, stars, crabs and fish.

An octopus and marine animals revealed on the shore of the Spaseniya Bay, Russia’s Kamchatka region.

Currently, the Pacific Ocean waves in the area have a strong toxic smell and the colour of water even has a clear yellow tinge. The seals in the region also refused to dive and spending as long as possible on the surface. However, local surfers and divers continued to dive into the ocean to check on the state of sea animals. Unfortunately, the once-thriving underwater life is all gone.

Governor Vladimir Solodov speaks on the Avacha Bay coast, in Russia’s Kamchatka Region, on Sunday.

Symptoms experienced by local surfers due to the ecological disaster

Russian regional health officials said nine people, including one child, who came into contact with the water had sought medical assistance for chemical burns between Sept. 26-29 and over the weekend. All of the surfers experienced a burning sensation in their eyes, strong headaches, often fevers, throat aches and a feeling of losing eyesight after getting out of the water. These symptoms may indicate phenol poisoning.

The ecological disaster in the region has turned for the worse as now even staying close to the water makes a poisonous effect, making gas masks a necessity.

Sample taking at the Khalaktyrsky beach outside Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

Actions taken by the local authorities

Before the news of the mass die-off broke out, the local authorities had not posted any warnings in the area. In response, Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Far Eastern federal district Yury Trutnev ordered an immediate investigation into the cause of water contamination in the region. The regional Ministry of Natural Resources has since conducted a procedural probe into the exact cause of the catastrophe. Analytical tests indicated increased levels of phenols (2.5 times), oil products (3.6 times) and other petroleum products in the water.

They also identified pollution in three other areas of the Avacha Bay. Cases of sea habitat death were confirmed in the Bolshaya Lagernaya Bay, the Malaya Lagernaya Bay and the Babya Bay.

The possible reasons for the mass death of sea animals

Manmade pollution, natural phenomena or a volcano-related earthquake are among the reasons for the recent mass deaths of marine animals in Russia. Some parties also attributed the pollution to the recent military training at Kamchatka and leakage of oil products and phenol from ships passing through the Avacha Gul. Greenpeace Russia shared satellite pictures showing a yellow-coloured river flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

There are Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet bases upstream. However, they have denied that their activities could have caused the disaster. On the other hand, scientists postulated that the ecological disaster could be due to natural phenomena. For instance, it could be related to the behaviour of algae that washed up on the shore during a storm. The scientists have put forward a theory of seismic activity linked to volcanoes.

However, Russian Minister of Natural Resources Dmitry Kobylkin has brushed off rumours that the accident in Kamchatka was man-caused. He said that all the tests performed together with the Russian environmental supervision agency Rosprirodnadzor indicated that TLV [threshold limit values – TASS] are not exceeded in respect of oil products in water or onshore [in the accident area – TASS].

As of now, the authorities in Russia were not able to accurately identify the source of contamination without comprehensive water test results. However, Kobylkin promised that he would announce more detailed information later.

 

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Content Sources:

  1. Russia Investigates Mysterious Marine Animal Deaths in Kamchatka
  2. Investigators probe ‘possible ecological catastrophe’ in Russia’s Kamchatka region
  3. Kamchatka emergency unlikely to be man-caused — minister

 

 

 

 

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