14 crew killed in Russian submarine fire in latest disaster for country’s navy

Fourteen seamen have died in a fire on a deep submersible, Russia's defense ministry said Tuesday, the latest in a string of disasters and accidents to hit the country's navy. (AP/File Photo)
Updated 03 July 2019

14 crew killed in Russian submarine fire in latest disaster for country’s navy

  • Fourteen crew died as a result of poisoning from the fumes of the fire
  • Russia has seen a number of such accidents in the post-Soviet period

MOSCOW: Fourteen seamen have died in a fire on a deep submersible, Russia's defense ministry said Tuesday, the latest in a string of disasters and accidents to hit the country's navy.
The tragedy in the far north has echoes of the sinking of the Kursk submarine in 2000 that claimed the lives of 118 personnel and shook the first year of Vladimir Putin's presidency.
"On July 1, a fire broke out during biometric measurements on a scientific research deep-sea submersible," the defense ministry said.
Fourteen crew died as a result of poisoning from the fumes of the fire in Russia's territorial waters, a ministry spokeswoman confirmed to AFP.
The fire has been put out, the ministry said, adding an investigation was under way.
"The investigation is being conducted by the commander-in-chief of the navy."
The research was conducted to study areas near the seabed and the seabed itself of the ocean in the interests of the Russian naval fleet, according to the ministry.
The vessel is now situated at a military base in the closed northern city of Severomorsk which is located on the Kola Peninsula above the Arctic Circle.
The defense ministry provided no other details.
Putin has yet to respond publicly to the disaster.
A military expert, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, rubbished claims that the fire happened during scientific research.
"Usually it's a cover for different type of work conducted on the seabed" like laying cables, the expert said.
The RBC newspaper, citing a source in law enforcement agencies, said the accident took place in the submersible deployed from the AC-12 nuclear submarine known as Losharik.
Novaya Gazeta independent newspaper said, citing sources, that the fire took place aboard the AC-12 submarine, killing the entire crew of 25 officers
Russia has seen a number of such accidents in the post-Soviet period.
In August 2000, the Kursk submarine sunk in the Barents Sea with the loss of all 118 aboard.
An inquiry found that a torpedo had exploded, detonating all the others.
Putin, who stayed on holiday for several days after the disaster, was severely criticised for his response.
Moscow also controversially turned down foreign offers of assistance for the rescue effort.
In another accident in 2008, twenty people -- three naval officers and 17 civilians -- were killed by poison gas after a vessel's fire-extinguishing system was accidentally activated during trials in the Sea of Japan.
In 2011, one of Russia's biggest nuclear submarines caught fire while undergoing repairs in dock in the northern Murmansk region.
Later it was reported the sub was armed with long-range nuclear missiles when it caught fire.


36 people missing after boat sinks in Congo river: DRC police

Updated 15 September 2019

36 people missing after boat sinks in Congo river: DRC police

  • Seventy-six people survived after the vessel went down overnight on the outskirts of the capital

KINSHASA, Congo: Thirty-six people are missing after a boat sank in the Congo river on the outskirts of Kinshasa, DR Congo police said on Sunday.

The vessel, which was travelling to the capital, went down overnight in Maluku commune, about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the centre of the city. Seventy-six people survived, police wrote on Twitter.

"The cause of the accident is not yet known," police spokesperson Colonel Pierrot-Rombaut Mwanamputu told AFP. Lake and river transport is widely used in Democratic Republic of Congo as the highway system is poor, but accidents are common, often caused by overloading and the unsafe state of vessels.

The boat involved was called a "baleiniere" or "whaler" - a commonly-used flat-bottomed vessel between 15 to 30 metres (50 to 100 feet) long by two to six metres wide.

In the vast majority of accidents, passengers are not equipped with life jackets and many cannot swim.