Fire broke out on one of the Russian navy’s deep-sea research submersibles, and toxic fumes from the blaze killed 14 sailors aboard, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday, although it released few details about the disaster or the vessel involved.
The Defense Ministry did not say how many sailors were aboard the vessel during Monday’s fire, whether there were any survivors or if it was submerged at the time. But Russian media reported it was the country’s most secret submersible, a nuclear-powered vessel designed for sensitive missions at great depths.Some Russian media said the vessel was an AS-12 nuclear-powered sub, however, there has been no official confirmation, BBC News reported. The vessel is now at Severomorsk, the main base of the Russian Northern Fleet.
President Vladimir Putin, who came under criticism for his handling of the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster in 2000 that killed 118 sailors, canceled a scheduled appearance and immediately summoned Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for a briefing on the blaze, which was under investigation.”Fourteen submariners have died of poisoning by fumes from the fire,” Shoigu told Putin during a televised meeting. “The fire was extinguished thanks to the crew’s resolute action.”The Losharik, which entered service in 2010, is the most advanced and most obscure Russian submarine. It’s named after a Soviet-era cartoon character, a toy horse made of small spheres.The name is apparently explained by the unique design of its internal hull, which is made of several titanium spheres capable of withstanding high pressure at great depths.In 2012, the Losharik was involved in research intended to prove Russia’s claim on the vast Arctic seabed. It collected samples from the depth of 8,202 feet, according to official statements at the time. Regular submarines can typically dive to depths of up to 2,000 feet.Some observers speculated the Losharik was even capable of going as deep as 19,685 feet, but the claims couldn’t be independently confirmed. Analysts suggested that one of its possible missions could be disrupting communication cables on the ocean bed.The Losharik is carried under the hull of a mother submarine, the nuclear-powered Orenburg.