An accident aboard a nuclear-powered Russian submarine in the Pacific Ocean killed more than 20 people, the navy said today.
The nuclear reactor aboard the submarine was operating normally and radiation levels were normal, navy spokesman Captain Igor Dygalo said.
The accident occurred yesterday when a fire-extinguishing system went into operation in error aboard the submarine, which was on a test run in the Pacific, Capt Dygalo said. He said the dead included sailors and shipbuilders.
The submarine was heading back to shore on its own power, and 21 people injured in the accident were evacuated to a ship that was escorting the sub.
Russia’s navy has been plagued by deadly accidents, including the explosions that sank the nuclear-powered submarine Kursk in 2000, killing all 118 seamen aboard.
Saturday’s accident came as the Kremlin seeks to restore Russia’s naval reputation. A naval squadron is headed to Venezuela for joint exercises this month in a show of force near US waters.
An unnamed official in Russia’s Pacific Fleet said the accident occurred toward the bow of the submarine and that there was no threat to the nuclear reactor, closer to the centre.
Capt Dygalo would not name the submarine or say exactly where the accident took place.
An unnamed official at the Amur Shipbuilding Factory said the sub was built there, that it is the called the Nerpa and was on a test run in the Sea of Japan when the accident occurred.
The official said the sub was heading for a base in the Primorye region, which includes the port city of Vladivostok.
According to reports, tests on the submarine began last month and it submerged for the first time last week.