As many as 10 people were injured when Russia’s only aircraft carrier caught fire Thursday while undergoing maintenance work in an Arctic shipyard, according to reports.
A thick plume of black smoke was seen from the upper deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov, which erupted in flames in the port of Murmansk and was evacuated, dockyard officials said.
The carrier, which has been docked at the port since April 2018, was undergoing an upgrade when the fire broke out during welding work, the officials said.
Russian news agencies quoted local emergency services as saying at least 10 people had been injured, with six reported to be in intensive care. More than 400 people were aboard when it erupted, according to TASS.
The fire had spread over an area of about 6,500 square feet, according to Interfax, which quoted a source as describing the conflagration in the Zvezdochka shipyard as “very serious.”
The Admiral Kuznetsov has seen action in Russia’s military campaign in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad, with its aircraft carrying out air strikes on rebel forces.
Fighter planes from the ship hit more than 1,200 targets during its mission, according to Agence France-Presse.
The Kuznetsov also stopped off the coast of Libya in January 2017 and took aboard military strongman Khalifa Haftar, whom Russia has reportedly backed in the country’s long-running civil conflict.
Britain’s then-Defense Minister Michael Fallon dubbed the carrier, which became fully operational in 1995, Russia’s “ship of shame” for its role in the Syrian conflict.
Before Thursday’s fire, work on the Kuznetsov was expected to be completed by the end of 2020, with the warship rejoining the navy in 2021.
Last year, the collapse of a crane on the ship’s deck, which killed one worker and caused major damage, raised concerns the work would be delayed past the 2021 deadline.
The Russian navy has been battling financial hardships, aging shipyards, and delays in fulfilling orders for new ships.
With Post wires
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