Russian emergency crews have tried to submerge a nuclear submarine that caught fire while undergoing repairs in dry dock as officials insisted it was not carrying nuclear fuel or arms.
Despite attempts by authorities to downplay the incident on Tuesday, reports said Russia’s navy chief Admiral Viktor Chirkov flew out to the scene along with a slew of top naval brass.
After battling the flames for several hours, firefighters were now filling the dock with water “and the operation may last several hours”, said Ilya Zhitomirsky, spokesman for the United Shipbuilding Corporation which manages the facility.
The aim would be to submerge the submarine.
A statement by the press service of the Zvyozdochka shipyard said that the fire started in the stern, when welding works impacted rubber-based hull insulation.
‘Employees and crew have left the submarine in an organised fashion,’ it said.
‘Nobody has been hurt.’
The vessel – a cruise missile type sub called Orel with two reactors that is classified as Oscar-II by NATO – had nuclear material aboard.
‘The nuclear fuel had been unloaded from Orel before it was put up on dry dock. The reactor is turned off,’ Zhitomirsky told RIA Novosti agency.
‘There are no weapons on board. It is clear that if the submarine was armed it would not have been accepted for repairs,’ the shipyard’s spokesman, Nikolai Blinov, said.
Televised footage from the dock showed black smoke rising above the 155-metre-long submarine.