Russia says five killed in mysterious rocket test accident

Russia says five killed in mysterious rocket test accident

There have been "no harmful chemicals released into the atmosphere", the Defense Ministry said, adding that "radiation levels are normal".

The city where Russia's main nuclear research facility is based announced a day of mourning Sunday for five staff killed during a missile test that caused elevated radiation levels.

The accident occurred at a military testing range near Severodvinsk in the Arkhangelsk region on August 8.

It was not immediately clear if the five fatalities cited in a Saturday statement by Rosatom were all in addition to the previously reported deaths.

Later, a source reported that specialists from Rosatom as well as the Defence Ministry were killed as an experimental engine system ignited at a site.

It added that the accident took place during engineering and technical works on isotope sources of the engine. Several staff members were thrown away to the sea and there was a hope to find them alive.

Russia's Defense Ministry initially said that said two people died in Thursday's explosion and four were injured, including servicemen and civilian engineers.

US -based nuclear experts said they suspected the explosion occurred during the testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile vaunted by President Vladimir Putin previous year.

"They are heroes of modern Russian Federation and we will remember them", chief Valentin Kostyukov said in a video statement posted by Sarov media.

Greenpeace cited data from the Emergencies Ministry that it said showed radiation levels had risen 20 times above the normal level in Severodvinsk, around 30 km from Nyonoksa. "At the checkout, people were discussing the news about radiation in Severodvinsk, the explosion at the military site".

He said this exceeded the permitted limit of 0.6 microsieverts, TASS reported. The officials said this did not present any significant risk to public health. "The injured were delivered to a specialized medical institution".

An expert from Moscow's Institute for Nuclear Research, Boris Zhuikov, told RBK independent news site that isotope power sources are not normally risky for people working with them.

"I think the radioactive contamination was fairly weak and the consequences will be [felt by] the people who were at the scene of the incident itself. Isotope sources use various types of fuel: plutonium, promethium or cerium", Zhuikov said.

This was the second accident to hit the Russian military in less than a week.

Local residents have been stocking up iodine used to reduce the effects of radiation exposure after the accident, regional media have reported.

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