Saturday, November 08, 2008

Russian Sub Accident, Over Twenty Dead

Photo: Russian nuclear submarine Vepr in 2004

An accident aboard the Russian nuclear submarine Nerpa killed more than twenty people and injured twenty-one Saturday. The sub was on a test run in the Sea of Japan when, for unknown reasons, the fire extinguishing system activated in the bow of the boat. Russian sub fire suppression systems usually utilize foam and chemical suppressants. There were 208 people aboard 81 of whom were servicemen. Submariners and ship builders were killed, the Associated Press reports.

Anonymous Russian fleet officials said the fire occurred in the bow far away from the nuclear reactor located amidships. The newly built boat began tests a month ago and had her maiden submersion last week.

The Nerpa is heading back to the Amur Shipbuilding Factory under it's own power accompanied by a rescue vessel. The 21 injured have been evacuated to Vladivostok aboard the destroyer Admiral Tributs.

This is the third serious naval accident for the newly rebuilt Russian fleet since the Kursk was lost. The Kursk sinking in 2000 resulted from the premature detonation of a hydrogen peroxide powered torpedo while being prepared for launch. The initial explosion caused secondary explosions within two minutes. All hands, 118 souls, perished after several days of rescue attempts. In 2003, eleven people died on a sub being taken out of service sank in the Barents Sea.

The loss of the Kursk and crew was a major blow to the new President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who was in his first year of his first term. Russia's inability to rescue the crew and Putin's unwillingness to accept US aid cost the lives of the men who survived the explosion. The international television coverage was hugely embarrassing to the young leader.

Saturday's incident comes just when the Russian navy is trying to restore it's reputation and demonstrate it's military prowess. This month Russia is to hold joint naval exercises with Venezuela on the doorstep of the U.S., thumbing their nose at America's Monroe Doctrine.

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.

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