Russian villagers set for mini-evacuation from fatal nuclear blast area | World news
Russian authorities have recommended villagers temporarily leave the area where a rocket engine carrying nuclear material exploded last week.
Authorities in Nyonoksa have suggested locals leave the village from 5am to 7am on Wednesday due to work being carried out at the nearby military test site where the deadly accident occurred. A government spokeswoman said a special train would be sent to carry residents from the town.
Government officials quickly claimed there was no evacuation, while giving little additional information about why locals were being asked to leave the area.
“This is absurd, there is no evacuation,” Igor Orlov, the regional governor, told the Interfax news agency on Tuesday.
At least five people were killed earlier this week when a rocket exploded during the highly secretive test, causing a spike in gamma radiation levels in the city of Severodvinsk nearly 20 miles away for several hours.
Experts have speculated that Russia’s military could have been testing an experimental nuclear-powered cruise missile first unveiled by Vladimir Putin in 2018. The missile would theoretically have unlimited range and be able to evade US missile defence systems, but experts are doubtful whether its core technology, a small nuclear reactor inside a missile, is viable.
“The United States is learning much from the failed missile explosion in Russia,” Donald Trump tweeted on Monday. “We have similar, though more advanced, technology. The Russian ‘Skyfall’ explosion has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond. Not good!”
Russia has maintained a veil of secrecy around the accident. The military initially mentioned only a rocket explosion and said radiation levels were stable. It was later contradicted by monitoring data and statements by Rosatom, the Russian state atomic energy agency, which confirmed the explosion occurred while testing an “isotope power source in a liquid propulsion system”.
Russia has closed a portion of a bay in the White Sea near where the incident took place on a floating platform, and the Serebryanak, a ship believed to be used to retrieve radioactive materials following military tests, has been spotted in the exclusion zone. It is possible that Wednesday’s short-term evacuation could be tied to the retrieval of materials used in last week’s test.
On Tuesday, Russia’s environmental monitoring agency released data showing that gamma radiation in Severodvinsk had risen up to 16 times the expected levels for a period of two hours following the explosion.
Local residents have been given little information about the incident. Pharmacies in several northern cities said that residents had stocked up on iodine, a chemical that reduces the effects of radiation exposure. Message boards on the Vkontakte social network serving Severodvinsk and other cities saw posts from locals concerned about tests involving nuclear materials.
“We have to make it so that these kinds of tests can’t take place so close to the city,” wrote one woman in a forum for residents of Severodvinsk.
The Tass news agency also reported on Tuesday that medics who treated victims of last week’s accident had been sent to Moscow for medical examinations. They had been pictured wearing protective suits and respirators after the accident. Tass also reported that they had signed non-disclosure agreements about the accident.