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Russian nuclear submarine catches fire while under repair

MOSCOW — A Russian nuclear submarine that was under repair in a far northern port caught fire Tuesday, but officials said there was no danger of explosion or radiation leak.

The fire broke out in the Zvezdochka shipyard in Severodvinsk, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) north of Moscow on the White Sea. After struggling for several hours to extinguish the blaze, officials finally let water into the dry dock to partly submerge the burning ship.

The Orel submarine that caught fire is capable of carrying nuclear-tipped cruise and anti-submarine missiles, but officials said that all of its weapons and reactor fuel had been removed before the repairs.

Ilya Zhitomirsky, a spokesman for the United Shipbuilding Corporation which runs the shipyard, told The Associated Press that no one was injured in the fire, which he said started in the vessel’s insulation.

The Investigative Committee, Russia’s top criminal investigation agency, said it had launched a probe into alleged safety violations during repair works that triggered the blaze.

It said there was no damage to the environment.

The Orel submarine is of the same type as the Kursk, the nuclear submarine that exploded and sank during naval maneuvers in the Barents Sea in August 2000, killing all 118 crew members aboard in Russia’s worst naval accident.

Other Russian nuclear submarines have been damaged by fires during repair works, which were blamed on negligence and violation of safety rules.

In December 2011, a massive fire broke out on the Yekaterinburg submarine in dry dock for repairs, and it took fire crews about 20 hours to fully put out the blaze. Seven crew members were hospitalized after inhaling poisonous fumes from the fire.

And in September 2013, 15 servicemen were injured in a fire that broke out on the Tomsk submarine under repairs on a Pacific shipyard.