"Admiral Kuznetsov" at port in Murmansk. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Trouble-hit aircraft carrier catches fire in Murmansk

The fire on "Admiral Kuznetsov" at yard No. 35 started during welding work in one of the engine rooms.
December 12, 2019

The fire started at 10.20 am Russian time on Thursday local media in Murmansk reports. 

12 people are reported injured, of which one is at intensive care and his condition is severe, TASS reports from Murmansk. Meduza later reported that one person died. Baza Telegram channel could late Thursday evening tell that rescuers had found the body of the deceased. According to SeverPost, one other officer is still missing. 

Diesel fuel caught fire on a lower deck, FlashNord reports. At 5 am Friday morning, more than 18 hours after the fire started, open flames where eliminated, TASS reports. 

The area of the fire has reached 600 square meters, Interfax reports. Several videos posted on social media, including the Baza Telegram channel, from the yard show thick black smoke coming out from the upper portside of the vessel. Firefighters are struggeling to get the fire under control. 

Yard No. 35, also known as Sevmorput, is a branch of the Zvezdockha yard in Severodvinsk. The yard is located in the Rosta district in the northern part of Murmansk and the quay where «Admiral Kuznetsov» is at port is next to Atomflot, the service base for Russia’s fleet of nuclear powered icebreakers. As the video shows, the smoke blows north towards Atomflot, which is a few hundre meters from the burning carrier. Here, several service ships with nuclear waste are at port. Onshore, there are storages for spent nuclear fuel casks and solid radioactive waste. 

 

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«Admiral Kuznetsov» is Russia’s only aircraft carrier. The vessel has been under modernization since 2018, a work that is said to last until 2022.

Last fall, a huge floating dry-dock holding the carrier sank at yard No. 82 in Roslyakovo north of Murmansk. The deck of «Admiral Kuznetsov» was then damaged as a crane fall over.

The carrier has a bad record accidents.

In November 2014, a MiG-29 fighter jet crashed while trying to land on the aircraft carrier during a mission in the Mediterranean off the Syrian coast. Also in 2005, a Su-33 aircraft went off deck during landing and sank. 

«Admiral Kuznetsov» was commissioned in 1991. The 305 meters long vessel is the largest in the Russian navy and has all time been deployed with the Northern Fleet.

 

“Admiral Kuznetsov” at port at yard No. 35 in Murmansk next to Atomflot icebreaker base. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

 

This satellite image shows how close the carrier is to Atomflot. Although most nuclear-powered icebreakers nowadays are sailing the Kara Sea / Yamal areas, there are still four service ships with radioactive- and nuclear waste at port as well as several storage sites onshore for radioactive waste and casks with spent nuclear fuel. The distance from the fire onboard “Admiral Kuznetsov” to the possible nearest vessel at Atomflot is about 400 meters. Satellite image by Google Earth / Barents Observer

 

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