12/29/2011 12:56 pm ET Updated Feb 28, 2012

Russia Nuclear Submarine Fire: Helicopters Battle Flames

By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW, Dec 29 (Reuters) - Russia used helicopters and
tugboats to battle a fire that engulfed a nuclear submarine
docked at a shipyard on Thursday but emergency officials said
radiation levels were normal.

A local television channel showed a giant plume of smoke
above the yard in the Murmansk region of northern Russia and
said helicopters were trying to douse flames which witnesses
said rose 10 metres (30 feet) above the stricken vessel.

Russia said all weapons had been removed from the 167-metre
(550 feet) Yekaterinburg, which launched a ballistic missile
from the Barents Sea as recently as July, and that the nuclear
reactor had been shut down.

"Radiation levels are normal," a spokeswoman for the
emergencies ministry said. "No one was injured."

The blaze at the Roslyakovo dock, one of the main dockyards
of Russia's northern fleet 1,500 km (900 miles) north of Moscow,
is believed to have started when wooden scaffolding caught fire
during repairs to the submarine, which some Russian news
agencies said had been hoisted into a dry dock.

The 18,200-tonne Yekaterinburg can carry 16 ballistic
missiles, each with four warheads.

Russia's worst post-Soviet submarine disaster occurred in
August 2000 when the Kursk nuclear submarine sank in the Barents
Sea killing all 118 crewmen aboard.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Giles Elgood)