A short circuit apparently started a fire on a Soviet nuclear-powered submarine, causing several explosions that may have cracked the hull and sunk the vessel, the government newspaper Izvestia said Monday.
Tass reported two torpedoes armed with nuclear warheads were aboard the submarine that sank in the Norweigan sea Friday and killed 42 of the 69 sailors aboard. It said there was no threat of radiation contamination.Izvestia's report Monday, quoting an investigation under way at Northern Fleet headquarters in the Arctic port of Murmansk, said: "According to preliminary information, the fire started because of a short circuit."
The newspaper quoted Defense Minister Dmitri T. Yazov as saying that after fighting the fire for two or three hours the crew heard several explosions.
"It is possible that the hull was cracked in a series of places," Izvestia said. The explosions may have occurred in seven pieces of "special equipment," Izvestia said. It did not further identify them.
The ship's log was saved and investigators are going over it to determine what happened, the newspaper said. Crews had determined the exact location of the submarine, it said.
The newspaper report shed some light on the fate of the crew. Soviet media said previously that 42 of the submarine's 69 crew, including the captain, died. A Soviet ship rescued the others and took them to a hospital in Murmansk.
Izvestia said four sailors went down with the submarine, and that two of those who were pulled from the icy water died later. Rescue teams found only 19 bodies, it said.
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry reiterated previous Soviet reports that there was no danger of a radiation leak. The spokesman added no decision had been made yet whether it was possible to raise the submarine, which sank more than 4,500 feet in waters about 310 miles west of Tromsoe on Norway's west coast.
Norwegian scientists took deep-water samples Sunday and placed equipment near the sub that will monitor radiation levels for years.
Tass said Monday that investigators had found no fault with the effort to extinguish the fire. "According to the opinion of the government commission created to investigate this tragic event, the crew acted bravely and intelligently," Tass said.
U.S. officials have said the vessel, one of the Soviets' most advanced, was capable of carrying more than a dozen long-range missiles in addition to the torpedoes.