Leaked torpedo fuel cause of Kursk blast, say Russians

THE Russian government confirmed yesterday that leaked torpedo fuel and not a foreign submarine or a Second World War mine caused the explosions that destroyed the Kursk nuclear submarine.

All 118 men on board died as it sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea in one of Russia’s worst post-Soviet disasters.

General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov made the announcement after meeting President Vladimir Putin, who told the prosecutor

to inform the Russian public about the cause of the explosion. “The disaster occurred at 11.28 and 26.5 seconds Moscow time because of a blank torpedo explosion inside the fourth torpedo tube, which in turn triggered explosions in torpedo charge chambers in the submarine’s bow section,” Ustinov said.

For two years, the Russian government had been reluctant to admit its sub was destroyed by an internal malfunction.

But earlier this month, a commission investigating the August 2000 disaster said that had become the only possible explanation.

Ustinov said everyone on the Kursk died within eight hours of the explosion. Russia has already withdrawn all torpedoes of the type that malfunctioned, which uses the highly volatile fuel as a propellant and have reportedly been in service since the early 1970s.

The torpedoes have a higher speed and range than conventional torpedoes powered by electric engines.

The Kursk disaster and especially the government’s failed operation to rescue the sailors who had survived the blasts trapped inside the submarine in the Arctic depths drew huge criticism at home and abroad. President Putin was criticised for remaining on holiday in the first days of the disaster and rescue bid. The ruined hulk of the submarine was salvaged and lifted out of the sea-bed last autumn.

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