Russia’s state nuclear agency admitted Saturday that five of its employees died in an explosion involving radioactive materials. Some bodies were thrown into the sea.
Two days after the explosion at a naval weapons testing ground last Thursday, Russia’s state nuclear agency, Rosatom, admitted that its scientists were dealing with radioactive materials. The authorities’ pronouncement came after the death toll had risen from two to five and measures were evident in the face of a possible radiation emergency.
“Five employees of Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation died while testing a liquid propulsion system,” the agency said in a statement issued early Saturday, confirming that the explosion occurred in the Arkhangelsk region in Russia’s far north.
While Russia did not provide more official details about the deaths or the procedures being carried out in the area or the radiation levels released by the chemicals, the state news agency Tass quoted an unidentified Rosatom official, who provided additional information.
According to the source, the test occurred on a platform at sea and the explosion threw several people into the water.
“The search continued while hoping to find survivors. Only after this was the announcement made of the death of five employees,” the official told Tass.
Parallel to the government’s announcements, the English media broadcast details of an alleged report from the Baza news site, according to which the bodies of two of the dead scientists had disappeared after the accident. Their names would be Yanovsky and Lipshev.
A radiation crisis?
On Friday, pharmacies in the region reported massive orders for iodine-containing drugs, which are often used against radiation poisoning, Russian media reported. Eventually they would have run out.
Local sources had reported that after the explosion at least six people were taken to Moscow with symptoms of exposure to high levels of radiation. Meanwhile, Baza published a video in which ambulances allegedly took people injured by the explosion to a hospital in the capital.
Russian media suggested that the explosion could have occurred in an area near the village of Nyonoska, which coincides with a testing ground for weapons, including ballistic and cruise missiles that are used by the Russian Navy.