In this 2004 file photo the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier seen in the Barents Sea, Russia. A fire on Russia’s only aircraft carrier injured two service members, Russian military officials said Thursday Dec. 12, 2019. The Admiral Kuznetsov was docked in Murmansk in northern Russia for an upgrade when the fire started amid welding work on Thursday morning. (AP Photo, file)
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s only aircraft carrier suffered a massive fire Thursday that killed one crew member, injured another 11 people and significantly damaged the ill-fated ship that has been haunted by incidents throughout its service.
The fire on the Admiral Kuznetsov broke out during welding work at a shipyard in the Arctic port of Murmansk and spread quickly through the carrier’s internal compartments. The ship’s crew and emergency teams spent the day battling the blaze.
The military said one crew member died while battling the fire, and another one is missing.
Authorities in Murmansk said 11 people were injured and 10 of them were hospitalized in intensive care units.
The Investigative Committee, the nation’s top state investigative agency, has opened a probe into a possible violation of safety rules.
Russian state television showed the carrier berth-side next to a snow-covered hill, engulfed by smoke.
The Defense Ministry said the fire was localized.
The Admiral Kuznetsov has been plagued by breakdowns and setbacks since its launch in 1985. The massive blaze follows a 70-ton crane crashing onto the Admiral Kuznetsov’s deck in October 2018 when a mammoth floating dock holding the ship sank.
The crane left a hole of 20 square meters (215 square feet), and the loss of the dock significantly slowed down repairs on the carrier since the navy lacked another of comparable size.
Thursday’s fire will further push back the work to fit the ship with modern control systems and new weapons.
With its turbines belching black smoke, the Admiral Kuznetsov looks outdated compared with the nuclear-powered carriers of the United States. However, the Kremlin has used it to project military might far from Russia’s shores.
In 2016, the Admiral Kuznetsov was deployed to the eastern Mediterranean as part of Russia’s campaign in Syria, launching the first carrier-mounted attacks in Russian naval history.
It lost two carrier-borne fighters in incidents during the Syria mission.
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