Russia: Nuclear submarine fire finally out
Saturday, December 31, 2011
MOSCOW (AP) — Firefighters extinguished a massive fire aboard a docked Russian nuclear submarine Friday as some crew members remained inside, officials said, giving assurances there was no radiation leak and the vessel’s nuclear-tipped missiles were not on board.
Military prosecutors have launched an investigation into whether safety regulations were breached. President Dmitry Medvedev summoned top Cabinet officials to report on the situation and demanded punishment for anyone found responsible.
The fire broke out Thursday at an Arctic shipyard outside the northwestern Russian city of Murmansk where the submarine Yekaterinburg was in dry-dock. The blaze, which shot orange flames high into the air through the night, was put out Friday afternoon and firefighters continued to spray the vessel with water to cool it down, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
Russian state television earlier showed the rubber-coated hull of the submarine still smoldering, with firefighters gathering around it and some standing on top to douse it with water. Most modern submarines’ outer hulls are covered with rubber to make them less noisy and more difficult for an enemy to detect.
Seven members of the submarine crew were hospitalized after inhaling poisonous carbon monoxide fumes from the fire, Shoigu said.
An unspecified number of crew remained inside the submarine during the fire, Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement. He insisted there never was any danger of it spreading inside the sub and said the crew reported conditions on board remained normal.
Konashenkov’s statement left it unclear whether the crew were trapped there or ordered to stay inside.
There has been no radiation leak from the fire, the Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry said, and Norway’s Radiation Protection Authority across the border reported it has not measured any increased radioactivity.
The governor in Finnmark, Norway’s northeastern province that borders Russia, and the radiation agency complained about the Russian response.
“There have been problems to get clear information from the Russian side,” Gunnar Kjoennoey told Norwegian broadcaster NRK. “We have an agreement to exchange information in such cases, but there has been no information from the Russian side so far.”
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