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Russian officials play down dangers after nuclear sub fire

Russian officials have said that there was no danger to the public after a nuclear submarine caught fire while in dry dock for repairs. They also said there was no nuclear fuel or weapons on board the vessel.

There were conflicting reports late on Tuesday as to whether the fire in the Orel Oscar II class nuclear submarine had actually been put out.

While the DPA news agency reported that the fire had been extinguished, both the AFP and Associated Press reported that firefighters were attempting to at least partially submerge the vessel, as they continued to battle the blaze hours after first responding to the emergency.

The blaze is thought to have been caused by sparks from welding work, which came into contact with the vessel's rubber-based insulation.

'No threat' to public safety

Russian officials

were quick to try to play down the incident, which occurred at the Zvyozdochka shipyard in

Severodvinsk, 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) north of Moscow on the White Sea

, saying that despite the fire and the nature of the vessel, at no time had there been any threat to the public.

"Employees and crew have left the submarine in an organized fashion," a statement issued by the shipyard's press office said. "Nobody has been hurt."

Ilya Zhitomirsky, a spokesman for the United Shipbuilding Corporation, which operates Zvyozdochka, said all critical elements of the nuclear reactor had been removed from the submarine before repair work on it had begun in November 2013.

"The nuclear fuel had been unloaded from Orel before it was put up on dry dock. The reactor is turned off," Zhitomirsky told Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.

"There are no weapons on board. It is clear that if the submarine was armed it would not have been accepted for repairs," Nikolai Blinov, a spokesman for the shipyard said.

pfd/msh (dpa, AFP, AP)

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