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Confusion Persists in Wake of Russia's Mystery Explosion

Residents of nearby village of Nyonoksa were told to evacuate, then the order was axed
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 13, 2019 1:27 PM CDT
The engineers, who died on Thursday, were laid to rest Monday in the city of Sarov that hosts Russia’s main nuclear weapons research center.   (Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM via AP)
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(Newser) – More mystery in Russia in the wake of a deadly missile explosion at a navy testing range last week: The Russian military on Tuesday told residents of a village near the range to evacuate but cancelled the order hours later, adding to the uncertainty and confusion fueled by the explosion, which led to a brief spike in radiation. The initial notice from the military told residents of Nyonoksa, a village of about 500, to move out temporarily, citing unspecified activities at the range. But a few hours later, the military said the planned activities were cancelled and rescinded the request to leave. Local media said residents of Nyonoksa regularly received similar temporary evacuation orders usually timed to tests at the range.

The Defense Ministry initially said the explosion Thursday of a rocket engine at the navy's range killed two people and injured six others, but the state-controlled Rosatom nuclear corporation said two days later that the blast also killed five of its nuclear engineers and injured three others. It's still not clear what the final toll is. And just as officials in Severodvinsk, a city about 19 miles easy of Nyonoksa, reported a brief spike in radiation levels, the Defense Ministry insisted that no radiation had been released—a blunt denial reminiscent of Soviet-era attempts to cover up disasters that added to public nervousness, reports the AP. Severodvinsk officials had said the radiation level rose to 2 microsieverts per hour for about 30 minutes on Thursday before returning to the area's natural level of 0.1 microsieverts per hour. (Read more here.)

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