Russia N-sub fire 'finally out'
Published 30/12/2011 | 09:22
Firefighters have extinguished a massive fire aboard a docked Russian nuclear submarine as some crew members remained inside, officials said, giving assurances that 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 on Thursday at an Arctic shipyard outside the north-western 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 on 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 smouldering, 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 hospitalised after inhaling carbon monoxide fumes from the fire, Mr Shoigu said.
An unspecified number of crew remained inside the submarine during the fire, defence ministry spokesman Colonel Igor Konashenkov said in a statement. He insisted there was never any danger of it spreading inside the sub and said the crew reported that conditions on board remained normal.
Col 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 defence 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 north-eastern 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."