Another accident interrupts repairs to the Russian Navy’s only aircraft carrier
Update: The fire aboard the ship was caused when welding equipment deposited sparks onto misplaced sawdust and oil-soaked rags, sources close to the repair work told the newspaper Kommersant. As of 4:10 p.m., Moscow time, one sailor was reported dead, another was still missing, and a dozen people were injured in the blaze.
The “Admiral Kuznetsov,” the only aircraft carrier in Russia’s Navy, suffered a fire on December 12 while docked for repairs. According to reports from the “Zvezdochka” shipyard, the fire broke out during welding work to repair an electrical compartment on the ship’s lower deck, where several cables caught fire. The fire spread to roughly 600 square meters (6,458 square feet), a source told the news agency Interfax. The news agency TASS says there were 400 people aboard the ship when the fire started.
Several people have been injured, and some may be missing. Eight people have been rescued from the ship, according to TASS. Sources told RIA Novosti that six people were injured in the blaze, including one person left in critical condition. Most of the injuries were due to inhaling poisonous combustion products, and one man working at the 35th Shipyard reportedly suffered a concussion. Two sailors also suffered non-life-threatening injuries, Russia’s Northern Fleet reported, though TASS says their condition is serious. According to RIA Novosti, another two workers are still missing. Both TASS and Interfax have reported the same person missing. According to unconfirmed reports by the Telegram channel Baza, rescue workers have been unable to locate Lieutenant-Commander Viktor Izmailov, who was overseeing the repairs to the ship.
The United Shipbuilding Corporation has reported that no civilian specialists were injured at the shipyard. A spokesperson for the “Zvezdochka” shipyard, meanwhile, has also stated that no one among the sailors or workers was injured, denying that anyone remains unaccounted for.
“Human error” may have caused the fire, according to United Shipbuilding Corporation President Alexey Rakhmanov, who says “cinders fell onto the lower deck” during welding work, where there were dismantled equipment and the remains of flammable liquids.
It’s still unclear if the fire will delay the ship’s return to the fleet. Rakhmanov says the effect on the repairs timetable won’t be clear until specialists have accessed and examined the compartment damaged by the fire.
In October 2018, a tower crane fell onto the Admiral Kuznetsov’s deck. The accident occurred as the aircraft carrier was exiting the PD-50 floating dry dock, where it was originally stationed for repairs. The incident left a five-meter (16.4-foot) hole in the ship that reportedly cost 70 million rubles ($1.1 million) to patch.
This is a rapidly developing story.
Translation by Kevin Rothrock