Russian prosecutors have opened a criminal probe into an oil spill off the country's Black Sea coast.
Officials are studying the coast between the resort town of Anapa and Novorossiisk, the Prosecutor-General's Office said in announcing the probe on August 11. The area has some of the country's best beaches and is popular with Russian tourists.
The spill occurred over the weekend off the city of Novorossiisk at a terminal while oil was being pumped into a tanker.
Authorities initially estimated that the spill covered only about 200 square meters, but Russian scientists with the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences said on August 11 after studying satellite images that it actually covered nearly 80 square kilometers.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said it had launched its own surveillance and found the slick had covered an area of 94 square kilometers. The WWF in Russia has estimated that about 100 metric tons of oil have spilled into the sea.
"Despite the prompt involvement of rescue teams, the oil spread over a colossal area," the WWF said on Facebook, adding that marine wildlife could be affected.
Viktoria Glushchenko of Greenpeace Russia said in a statement that if the estimates of the Space Research Institute were correct the spill will threaten fish, birds, and marine ecosystems.
"In addition, the health of people, including tourists, who will find themselves in the pollution zone, is at risk," she said.
Russian media said traces of oil were spotted along the Black Sea coast. Staff at a dolphinarium outside Anapa said they had seen oil slicks on the surface and were working to protect their marine mammals.
Svetlana Radionova, head of Russia's environmental watchdog, Rosprirodnadzor, said in an interview with Rossia-24 TV that a safety system appeared to quickly cut off the spill but said she could not say how much oil leaked into the sea based on the satellite images she saw.
An oil slick, even if it spread over some significant area, does not indicate the volume, she said, according to TASS. The volume will be calculated based on the information received from special equipment, Radionova added.