14 Crew members have been confirmed dead after a fire broke out that released toxic fumes aboard a Russian navy submersible, Russia’s Defense Ministry stated on Tuesday, July 2nd. More details have since been released; though, there were initially few.
It was quite the scene when President Vladimir Putin cancelled his scheduled appearance to be rushed to an emergency meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu over what could well have been an attack.
Putin immediately commanded Shoigu to depart for the Arctic base in Severomorsk, where the Navy submersible, which happened to be nuclear-powered, was brought. Shoigu oversaw the investigation and a televised meeting was quickly set up to disseminate some of the details.
“I ask you to fly to Severomorsk in order to personally listen to the reports and to aim the commission to get to the bottom of the causes of the tragedy,” Putin said.
The Defence Ministry has since said that the fire broke out Monday while performing tests in Russian waters, and that the fire was put out due to the fast acting and sacrifice of the crew members.
“Fourteen submariners have died of poisoning by fumes from the fire,” Shoigu later told Putin during the meeting. “The fire was extinguished thanks to the crew’s resolute action.”
Shoigu, when speaking with officials investigating the fire, said that those who died were “high professionals” and “unique experts”, the Globe and Mail has reported.
“The submariners acted heroically in the critical situation,” Shoigu said. “They evacuated a civilian expert from the compartment that was engulfed by fire and shut the door to prevent the fire from spreading further and fought for the ship’s survival until the end.”
“It’s a huge loss for the navy,” Putin said. “I offer my sincere condolences to the families of the victims.”
“Few images and details have emerged about the vessel,” Vladimir Isachenkov of the Associated Press commented. “In 2012, the Losharik was involved in research intended to prove Russia’s claim on the vast Arctic seabed. It collected samples from a depth of 2,500 metres (8,202 feet), according to official statements at the time. Regular submarines can typically dive only to depths of up to 600 metres (2,000 feet).”
It has since been revealed that the vessel had a special mission and a highly specialized crew.
“It’s isn’t a regular vessel,” Putin said. “It’s a research vessel with a highly professional crew,” adding that seven of the victims had obtained the rank of captain, with two being highly decorated with the nation’s highest military medal, the Hero of Russia.
More details are still pending, but it has been revealed by Russia’s defence minister that some crewmembers have survived the devastating fire.