Fourteen Russian sailors were reportedly killed on Monday night after a fire broke out aboard a Russian navy nuclear submarine conducting a survey of the sea floor in the country’s territorial waters.
Russian Defense Ministry said the blaze was later extinguished by the crew aboard the sub. The sub is now at the Arctic port of Severomorsk on the Barents Sea, the main base of Russia’s Northern Fleet.
According to Moscow Times, the incident happened on Monday at about 8.30pm when an AS-12 deep-sea nuclear submarine nicknamed Losharik was carrying out a military survey. Fire erupted during the process, killing fourteen people who died as a result of smoke inhalation.
The name of the submarine has not yet been confirmed by Russian authorities, but a security source told Russian RBC news that the submarine is the Losharik, which was launched in 2003. Losharik was built for research, rescue and special operations at great depths.
“On July 1 in Russian territorial waters a fire broke out on board a deep-water scientific research vessel that was studying the marine environment of the world ocean on behalf of the Russian navy,” Interfax said, cited a ministry statement.
“Fourteen submariners died as the result of smoke inhalation … Work is underway to establish the cause of the incident. The investigation is being conducted by the commander-in-chief of the navy.”
The National Interest international affairs magazine, said on its website that the Losharik can reach depths perhaps as great as 20,000 feet.
“While very little is known about Losharik, the vessel is believed to be tasked with tapping undersea cables among its various other missions,” according to the magazine’s report .
The latest tragedy is the largest accident on Russia’s Defense Ministry submersible since 2008, when 20 people died and 21 injured when a firefighting system was accidentally sparked while the Nerpa nuclear-powered submarine was undergoing trials.
In August 2000, the Russian nuclear-powered submarine Kursk sank to the floor of Barents Sea after two explosions, killing all 118 crew members. It was the deadliest naval incident in post-Soviet Russia.