Russian Submarine Accident Kills 20
Russian officials said 20 people were killed and 21 were injured Sunday after an accident with its fire extinguishing system caused two compartments of a Russian nuclear submarine to be flooded with freon gas, the New York Times reported.
Naval officials would not identify the sumbarine, but a state-owned news agency identified it as the Nerpa, an Akula-class attack sumbarine. It was undergoing tests in the Sea of Japan when the accident occurred, and a Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said its reactor had not been damaged and radiation levels were normal.
Most of the victims were shipbuilders who had been hired to carry out tests. An additional 167 on board were not injured, Dygalo said. The accident occurred near Vladivostok, the main Russian base in the far east, but the exact naval base where the vessel returned to was not released.
The submarined was scheduled to be commissioned into the Russian Navy later this year.
The accident was the most deadly incident involving a Russian submarine since 2000, when the nuclear submarine Kursk exploded and sank in the Barents Sea. Though many of the 118 men on board survived the accident, all had died by the time the submarine was brought to the surface, sparking controversy around then-President Vladimir V. Putin and his ability to react to such a crisis.
In this case, current President Dmitri A. Medvedev responded within hours of the crisis. Medvedev asked for constant updates on the situation and pledged support to families of the victims.
The event has seen intense news coverage, and a telephone hotlines for victims’ families has been displayed during broadcasts.
Four additional incidents followed the sinking of the Kursk. Nine crew members aboard a decomissioned nuclear sumbarine were killed when the vessel sank while being towed to a scrapyard in 2003. In 2004, one person died when a holding tank on a submarine exploded during repair work. A frenzied rescue effort in 2005 brought seven Russian sailors to the surface with only three to six hours' worth of air to spare. And in 2006, two soldiers suffocated in a fire broke out on a nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea.