Russian authorities say the oil spilled after a storm Sunday ripped apart a Russian tanker in the Kerch Strait has caused an environmental catastrophe along the Russian and Ukrainian coasts.

Russian news agencies quote the governor of the country's Karasnodar region, Alexander Tkachev, as saying the spill has killed an estimated 30,000 birds and countless fish. He spoke as authorities scrambled to deal with the pollution.

Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov to travel to the area, north of the Black Sea, to coordinate efforts for handling the disaster. Mr. Zubkov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, are to meet in the region Tuesday to discuss joint operations to handle the situation.

The tanker was one of at least five ships that broke apart or sank during the storm.

Russian authorities say the bodies of three sailors from a sunken cargo ship have washed ashore as rescuers search for five others still missing. But they say the approach of another storm is undercutting hopes of finding them alive.

Russian prosecutors have opened an investigation into possible criminal charges for pollution from the shipwrecks.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.