More than 20 people were killed and another 21 injured in an accident aboard a Russian nuclear submarine in the Pacific Ocean, the navy said on Sunday, in the worst submarine disaster since the Kursk sank eight years ago.
A Russian naval spokesman said 208 people were aboard the submarine when an accident involving the activation of a fire extinguishing system occurred during sea trials. He said the nuclear reactor was intact and radiation levels were normal. But the death toll makes it the worst mishap for the accident-prone Russian navy since the Kursk nuclear submarine sank in the Barents Sea in 2000 with the loss of all 118 sailors.
“More than 20 people were killed on a nuclear submarine in the Pacific Ocean during routine testing as a result of the unsanctioned functioning of the fire extinguishing systems,” the navy spokesman, Igor Dygalo, said by telephone.
“The reactor section (of the submarine) is working properly,” he said. “The radiation levels on the ship are normal.”
Dygalo did not give the name or class of the submarine or specify where it was located. Some of those killed were from a shipbuilding company, he added. He said a Russian destroyer was taking the injured to the Far East coast. President Dmitry Medvedev has been informed about the accident, the Kremlin press service said.
Former Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin, who had been president for just a few months at the time of the Kursk disaster, was criticized at home for his slow reaction to that incident.
Russia’s navy has suffered a string of fatal accidents, despite sharp increases in funding and Kremlin attempts to use its largely Soviet-era fleet to project an image of strength abroad and at home. … – reuters