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Thousands of Seals Die in Caspian Sea

ALMATY, Kazakstan (AP) - Thousands of seals have been found dead along Kazakstan's Caspian Sea coast - deaths officials blame on unusually warm weather but environmental experts say are linked to oil pollution.

Workers have collected and destroyed the bodies of 11,000 seals, said Galina Yeroshenkova of Kazakstan's Emergency Situations Agency. She said Wednesday that the deaths have come to an end.

Bekbulat Yeleushev, a department head in Kazakstan's Environmental Ministry, said, "The disease developed as a result of a very warm winter, for which the seals were not ready."

But Makhambet Khakimov, head of the non-governmental group Caspian Nature, said deaths are continuing. Researchers from his organization were finding more dead seals, as well as sturgeon, along the shore, Khakimov said.

He said the Astrakhan Fishing Institute has concluded the seals were killed by an infectious disease that hit the animals after their immune systems were weakened by oil-related pollutants in the sea.

AP-ES-06-21-00 1552EDT


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