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Russia nuclear agency says five died in missile test explosion

Updated

By Agence France-Presse

Russia’s nuclear agency on Saturday said an explosion at an Arctic missile testing site had killed five of its staff after the military had put the toll at two.

The military base and testing centre, pictured here in 2011, was used by the Soviet Union to test its nuclear arsenal (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

The military base and testing centre, pictured here in 2011, was used by the Soviet Union to test its nuclear arsenal (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

Earlier, the authorities in a nearby city said the accident had caused a spike in radiation levels but the military denied this.

The accident on Thursday happened during testing of a liquid propellant rocket engine at a missile test site in the far northern Arkhangelsk region.

In a statement, Rosatom said the accident killed five of its staff and injured three, who suffered burns and other injuries.

Rosatom said its staff were providing engineering and technical support for the “isotope power source” of the missile engine.

The military had not described the accident as involving nuclear fuel.

The authorities have released few details of the accident at the Nyonoksa test site on the White Sea, used for testing missiles used in nuclear submarines and ships since the Soviet era.

The defence ministry initially said that six defense ministry employees and a developer were injured while two specialists died of their wounds.

The authorities in Severodvinsk, a city around 30 kilometers (19 miles) away from the test site, said on their website that automatic radiation detection sensors in the city “recorded a brief rise in radiation levels” on Thursday morning.

The post was later taken down.

An official responsible for civil defense, Valentin Magomedov, told TASS state news agency on Thursday that radiation levels rose to 2.0 microsieverts per hour for half an hour from 11:50 am (0850 GMT), before falling sharply.

He said this exceeded the permitted limit of 0.6 microsieverts, TASS reported.

Russian online media published unattributed video that journalists said showed a line of ambulances speeding through Moscow to take the injured to a center that specializes in the treatment of radiation victims.

Rosatom said that the injured were being treated at a “specialized medical center.”

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